Former military medic testifies recruits 'inadvertently' exposed their breasts

Former Canadian military medic James Wilks, left, and his lawyer Maj. David Hodson, appear at Wilks' court martial in London, Ont., on charges of sexual assault and breach of trust stemming from medical exams of female army recruits.



LONDON, Ont. - A former military medic accused of sexual assault says he never performed breast exams on female recruits, but a few of them "inadvertently" exposed their breasts to him.

Testifying in his own defence at a court martial hearing Thursday, James Wilks denied the testimony of 16 women who said he asked them to take off their clothes or touched their breasts when conducting physical examinations.

"I never touched any of those people's breasts ... In three instances the applicants inadvertently lowered their gowns," said Wilks, who was stationed in London and Thunder Bay, Ont., in the latter part of his 27-year military career.

Wilks faces 10 counts of sexual assault and 16 counts of breach of trust by a public officer.

Fourteen women testified during proceedings in Gatineau, Que. They said he asked them to strip to their underwear or required them to submit to breast exams between 2003 and 2009. Two others testified in London this week.

Wilks said he did conduct breast exams on serving female military staff when he was stationed in Thunder Bay and that was consistent with the training he'd received. Reports of those examinations were approved by senior military staff.

He said he conducted physical exams on about 3,000 recruits during his career and understood that breast exams on female recruits were "not required, not to be done" and that recruits were to wear shorts and a gown during their examinations.

Defence lawyer Maj. David Hodson introduced annual performance reviews on Wilks and said his client's military career was "unblemished."

Wilks said he was summoned to a Winnipeg meeting with a senior officer in 2007 where his "gruff" manner in conducting physical exams was raised.

But Wilks said he explained to the senior officer "he was not there to be cuddly."

At that meeting, he said he was also directed not to do further breast examinations.

Earlier Thursday, presiding judge Lt.-Col. Louis-Vincent d'Auteuil denied a defence motion to drop nine of the 26 charges against Wilks before the rest of the court martial case proceeds.

The defence argued the prosecution hadn't presented proof in those charges that Wilks knew the policies and procedures for an appropriate exam or that he willfully disregarded them.

But D'Auteil ruled the prosecution doesn't have to provide the proof suggested by the defence and the charges would proceed.

The trial continues Friday.

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