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January 14, 2005

 

Cronin loses appeal
Former city speech therapist must serve out sentence for sexually assaulting former patients

By Terri Saunders
Front Page - Thursday, January 13, 2005 @ 10:00

A former Cornwall General Hospital speech therapist serving six years in prison for sexually assaulting former patients has lost his appeal.

In a decision released by the Ontario Court of Appeal Tuesday, the sentence handed down to Thomas Cronin will stand.

In November 2002, Cronin was sentenced to six years behind bars by Justice A. deLotbiniere Panet after the former doctor was found guilty of sexually assaulting six former patients and a family acquaintance in the 1970s and 1980s.

After reviewing the details of Panet’s decision, Justice Kathryn Feldman ordered the sentence be upheld.

“In my view, the trial judge performed a careful and cogent analysis of the similar fact evidence and its admissibility and made no error in his decision,” Justice Kathryn Feldman said in a decision written on behalf of herself and justices John Laskin and Robert Blair. The appeal was heard May 11, 2004.

The assaults took place between 1974 and 1985 when Cronin was a speech therapist at the hospital, and involved seven boys who ranged in age from five to 15 years old. One of the victims was never a patient, but rather an acquaintance.

During the sentencing hearing, Panet made it clear court will severely punish those who sexually abuse children.

“These offenders must know they must pay a heavy price (for their crimes),” he said. “This is a fair and fit sentence.”

During a hearing held May 11, 2004, Cronin’s attorney Gary Chayko submitted a number of grounds upon which he believed the sentence should have been appealed, including the length of time his client was ordered to serve.

“What we’re essentially dealing with here is oral sex and fondling,” Chayko said in November 2002 moments after Cronin was sentenced, “and I believe a six-year sentence is outside the range of what’s appropriate for these type of offences.”

Feldman said Panet’s six-year sentence was an appropriate disposition.

“These were very serious offences involving seven young people who were already vulnerable,” she said. “The appellant abused his position of trust both as a speech therapist and as a (family acquaintance). The sentence is well within the range.”