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Trial begins for Chilliwack physiotherapist charged with sexual assault

The first of eight female complainants took the witness stand against Sanjay Amrutkar
Sanjay Amrutkar of Chilliwack is charged with eight counts of sexual assault while working as a physiotherapist in 2019. (LinkedIn)

Two days into a trial scheduled to go 15 days, Sanjay Amrutkar has reached a plea agreement. The Chilliwack physiotherapist was accused of inappropriately touching several patients while providing physiotherapy at a Chilliwack clinic in 2019, and faced eight charges of sexual assault.

He left the Chilliwack Law Courts Wednesday morning (Jan. 25) with a not-yet-finalized agreement to plead guilty to one charge of sexual assault. Amrutkar’s lawyer, Joven Narwal, presented the deal to B.C. Supreme Court judge Brenda Brown.

Crown will be proceeding summarily with the one count, a designation reserved for less serious offences, and Amrutkar is expected to see no jail time. He’ll have to abide by a conditional sentence order that will include no house arrest. Amrutkar will have to observe a 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew for six months. That will be followed by one year probation which will include a no-contact order with the eight women who brought charges against him.

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Narwal said he would be applying to prevent Amrutkar’s name from being added to the Canadian National Sex Offender Registry (NSOR), and he added another stipulation that “the terms of the facts of the resolution will not involve in any way an admission that the touching was intentionally for a sexual purpose at all, but rather there was a form of non-consensual touching that still satisfies the elements of the offence.”

Because Crown is proceeding summarily, the agreement is being knocked down to B.C. provincial court to be finalized. Crown prosecutor Aaron Burns agreed to the deal.

The trial heard from two witnesses before it ended. The names of both women, and six other complainants, are protected by a publication ban.

The first witness to take the stand said she went to physio at the direction of WorkSafe BC because of a workplace knee injury. This woman had seen another physiotherapist several times, but when that person took vacation she saw Amrutkar twice. She testified that he didn’t follow the routine the other physio had established, which involved movement exercises, the use of a stimulation (electrical current) machine on the knee and taping of the knee.

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According to the witness, Amrutkar said her knee injury had caused her hips to fall out of alignment. During the session she said he had her lie on her back on a treatment table with her knees resting at a 90 degree angle. She said he spread her legs and moved his hand between them without asking permission. She said he touched her inner thigh and gradually moved his hand closer to her vagina as he massaged her groin for around 10 minutes. She testified that he touched her vagina under her shorts and underwear for 10 to 20 seconds.

She said he offered no explanation for what he was doing and never asked permission for anything he did. She said Amrutkar offered no treatment for her knee.

After she left the clinic she felt that what happened wasn’t right. She went to one more appointment a few days later where Amrutkar directed her to use an arm bike and sent her home. She had one more scheduled appointment with Amrutkar that she skipped, and she only returned to physio after her original therapist returned.

During cross examination, defence lawyer Joven Narwal chipped away at the witness’s credibility when he pointed out that she got the first name of her original physiotherapist wrong and he suggested she had three sessions with Amrutkar, not two. He produced a treatment record from the clinic showing Amrutkar’s notes from three dates and tried to trip up the witness on what happened, and when.

The lawyer also suggested the witness had done hip exercises with her original physio and Amrutkar had reason to be focusing on that area as well as the knee.

The witness pushed back on several of Narwal’s suggestions.

All eight complainants were scheduled to take the stand, and Crown was also going to call on Karen van der Hoop, a retired physiotherapist with six years experience as an inspector for the College of Physical Therapy of B.C., and seven as examiner for the Canadian Alliance of Physical Therapy Regulators.

“I expect that she’s going to say there’s no medical justification for what the complainants say Mr. Amrutkar did to them,” Burns said in his opening statement of facts.

Amrutkar is registered with the College of Physiotherapists of B.C., but must not treat female patients without a chaperone.

Eric Welsh

About the Author: Eric Welsh

I joined the Chilliwack Progress in 2007, originally hired as a sports reporter.
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