01/25/2013 01:01 EST | Updated 03/27/2013 05:12 EDT

Jury considering fate of Calgary court psychiatrist charged with sex assault

CALGARY - The case of a Calgary psychiatrist accused of sexually assaulting his court-appointed patients is in the hands of a jury.

Dr. Aubrey Levin, 74, is accused of sexually assaulting nine of his patients, all of whom were assigned to him through the courts between 1999 and 2010.

In her two-hour charge to the seven men and four women on the jury, which retired for the night Friday and will resume deliberations on Saturday morning, Justice Donna Shelley said a guilty verdict is possible only if the Crown proved its case.

"Dr. Levin does not have to prove he is innocent. The Crown has to prove he is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt."

She stipulated that jurors must return a verdict of not guilty if they believe the Crown failed to do that.

"Even if you believe he is likely guilty or probably guilty, you must find him not guilty."

Levin, who immigrated to Canada from South Africa, was frequently used by the courts to assess people and provide expert opinions at hearings.

He served briefly as regional director for the Regional Psychiatric Centre in Saskatoon and was licensed in 1998 to practise psychiatry in Alberta.

Shelley instructed the jurors to consider whether there was a "distinctive pattern of conduct" supporting the nine allegations of sexual assault.

The allegations came to light in 2010 after one of the patients came forward with secret videos he recorded during court-ordered sessions with the psychiatrist. The videos, played in court last fall, show Levin undoing the man's belt and jeans and appearing to fondle him.

The patient, identified only as R.B. in court, was on probation at the time the videos were taken and had been ordered by a court to see Levin twice a month.

The man said he had told authorities about previous assaults and no one believed him, so he bought a spy camera and brought it to his appointments. After Levin was arrested, other former patients came forward with abuse allegations.

Shelley said the jury needed to weigh the facts and determine if the incidents were consensual and if Levin, who has said he was conducting physical examinations, was in a position of trust.

"It's up to you to decide whether or not Dr. Levin's role as a psychiatrist placed him a position of trust, power and authority."

Levin is no stranger to controversy over his work as a psychiatrist. He faced heated accusations about his time as a military psychiatrist during apartheid in South Africa, where he earned his degree in 1963.

In the 1970s he was a psychiatrist at a military hospital where aversion therapy through electric shocks was allegedly used in an attempt to change the sexuality of gay soldiers. Levin is mentioned in a report entitled the aVersion Project that aimed to shed light on abuses of gays and lesbians in the military by health workers.

Media coverage of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission said Levin was named in a human rights submission as a key figure in the abuse of gay men in the military. It acknowledged the submission was based on anecdotal reports.

Levin has denied abusing any patients under his care and has argued that the submission was based on a distortion of facts, according to an article in the South African Medical Journal.

A 2003 report compiled by the Gay and Lesbian Archive and the South African History Archive tried to put together a history of Levin's work as a psychiatrist in any role he may have played related to gay and lesbian soldiers.

According to the report, Levin confirmed in a letter to the Truth and Reconciliation Committee that he had practised aversion therapy, but said it was an accepted therapy at the time for patients who did not accept their homosexuality.

He has denied in media reports that he ever administered shock therapy and has said the aversion therapy consisted of applying very slight discomfort to the arm of consenting patients.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was set up by the country's government to help deal with the violence and human rights abuses experienced under apartheid.

The report says two complaints were filed against Levin to what was then the South African Medical and Dental Council. It says in one case the father of the complainant said the "consultation had degenerated into an overt homosexual advance." It says in the other case, the complainant said Levin inquired about his sexuality and implied to his mother that he was gay. Levin apparently received an anonymous retraction of the second complaint, which he forwarded to the council.

Both complaints were dismissed.

The report says Levin was a National Party member at the time and that most professional bodies during apartheid were weighted towards the party, meaning "he may be perceived to have received a somewhat sympathetic hearing."