London police, hospital urged to release photo of sex-assault suspect

Original Article: Jonathan Sher, The London Free Press | July 13, 2018

London police and Southwestern Ontario’s largest hospital should make public a photo of a former hospital technician charged with drugging and sexually assaulting a patient, a leading voice against sexual violence says.

“Some sexual predators are opportunistic,” said Barb MacQuarrie, the community director at the Centre for Research & Education on Violence against Women & Children at Western University. “It’s rare a sexual predator has a single victim or incident.”

While the criminal charges against 24-year-old Vincent Gauthier haven’t been tested in court, the crime alleged is a brazen one: Police contend he sedated and sexually assaulted a woman placed in his care by the London Health Sciences Centre, one of Ontario’s largest hospitals.

The hospital later mailed letters to 838 patients assigned to Gauthier since he began work there in 2015 as a technician whose job was to attach electrodes to the heads of patients to be tested for abnormal electrical activity that is linked to seizures, a procedure known as electroencephalography, or EEG for short. Such technicians aren’t authorized to handle or administer drugs.

But if Gauthier was as brazen as police and hospital officials allege, sending letters only to those he tested isn’t enough, said MacQuarrie, as he might have used his three years in hospital to target patients not in his care or women in the community too.

“Certainly, there’s a possibility,” she said. “It’s not hard to think of other circumstances for predatory (behavior) . . . . We need to be very concerned that there were other incidents of that type of behavior.”

Officials at the London hospital owe it to patients to make public the photo, she said.

“The hospital has an interest in protecting the safety of patients. There is an ethical responsibility to do whatever (it) can,” she said.

Asked by The Free Press to respond to MacQuarrie’s concerns, a hospital spokesperson sent a brief email: “We will not be responding.”

Hospital officials have also refused to reveal what measures they take generally to protect against narcotics from being stolen and misused, and what steps they took to see if someone might have stolen sedatives that police allege were injected by Gauthier. Injected sedatives usually take the form of narcotics, a patient safety expert has said

The refusal by London police to release a photo puzzles MacQuarrie.

“Without the photo, you are potentially missing the opportunity for people to come forward,” she said.  “I don’t see how putting out the photo would compromise (the police investigation of Gauthier) . . .  I don’t see the public interest being served by obscuring his identity.”

Police have refused to make public a photo since they jointly held a news conference June 5 with LHSC chief executive Paul Woods. Police justified that refusal then by saying the photo was an “investigative detail” and that they had already identified and charged Gauthier.

Asked again this week for the photo, a police spokesperson refused, citing legislation that allows police to keep confidential records that would constitute an “unjustified invasion of personal privacy.”

That same legislation, Ontario’s Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, requires personal information to be made public when the need for privacy is outweighed by a “compelling public interest.”

Asked if there was a compelling public interest to prevent sexual assault by empowering women who might be victims to report, police spokesperson Roxanne Beaubien wrote, “Based on the facts and evidence available, it has been decided that there is not presently a significant risk to the public that would support the need to release the photo.”

Asked by The Free Press why police believe someone accused of a brazen sexual assault would not have targeted women in the community or other patients not assigned to him in hospital, Beaubien wrote, “The London Police Service has no additional information that would suggest the accused has committed other offences. We continue to urge anyone who has any additional information to contact police.”