Crown seeks jail time for nurse guilty of sex assaults

Abihudi Imbai accused of kissing patients at Ridge Meadows Hospital while they were sedated

  • Feb. 27, 2014 10:00 a.m.
Abihudi Imbai

Abihudi Imbai

A former registered nurse at Ridge Meadows Hospital who kissed two patients while they were sedated won’t learn his fate until next month.

Abihudi Imbai, 35, was convicted on two counts of sexual assault last August following a three-day trial in Port Coquitlam Provincial Court.

At a sentencing hearing Thursday, Crown prosecutor James Powrie requested a prison term of between three or four months for Imbai or an 18-month conditional sentence, which would be served in the community.

He noted, however, that a conditional sentence would not be appropriate as it would not stress “denunciation or deterrence.”

“Mr. Imbai’s actions completely ignored the best interests of his patients,” said Powrie. “The offences happened at night, there was no one around. They were completely at the mercy of their nurse. Society places considerable trust in health care professionals not to act this way.”

Imbai is accused of inappropriately touching and kissing two women at Ridge Meadows Hospital on June 11, 2012.

One of the woman said she had been given morphine for pain relief during the evening but was conscious when Imbai assaulted her. After the incident, she told her husband who reported it to the hospital the next day.

She didn’t learn about the second victim until trial proceedings began.

Fraser Health started an investigation within two days of receiving the complaints and fired Imbai within two weeks.

According to the College of Registered Nurses of B.C., Imbai voluntarily gave up his practising registration on Aug. 2, 2012.

A slight, thin man who wears thick glasses, Imbai attended court with his wife and five other supporters.

A psychological assessment and pre-sentence report prepared for provincial court judge Garth Smith noted Imbai was at a “low risk” to reoffend.

“It appears that Mr. Imbai has a very strong relationship with his spouse and two children,” said Powrie, adding Imbai was also involved with his church.

“He has a very good support system…he is a valued member of his community.”

The pre-sentence report noted that Imbai has been unwilling to accept responsibility, which Crown said raises some concerns about his rehabilitation.

The women who Imbai assaulted attended sentencing proceedings and requested to read their victim impact statements in court.

Imbai’s lawyer Daniel Markovitz objected to the statements being read aloud.

“I don’t think under these circumstances it is appropriate for the victims to read their statements,” he told Judge Smith.

“They had the opportunity to testify and did testify. It adds nothing to the proceedings.”

The judge disregarded Markovitz and allowed the women to read their statements into the record.

One woman told the court she lived in terror for 14 months leading up to Imbai’s trial.

“My trust in the hospital system and its personnel was violated in the worst possible way,” she said.

“Mr. Imbai caused a lot of pain for myself and my family and I am hopeful that he will never be in a position to harm another person.”

The woman has sought counselling but still has fears about going to the hospital or visiting the care facilities where both her parents live. But she is glad she has finally had the opportunity to confront Imbai.

“On the first day of trial when I saw him, I realized what a small person he was,” said the woman.

“My confidence came back when I took the stand and tried to meet his eyes. My scars from this assault are very deep and will remain with me forever.”

The second victim told the court she was unable to go to hospital for the longest time after the assault.

“It wasn’t until my third bout with an infection that I was able to steel my resolve and go to the ER,” she said.

“My teeth chattered, my body shook and my mind ran away with visions and memories. I was terrified to my very core.”

She still struggles daily with what Imbai did to her.

“I live with the knowledge that there may well have been more done to me while I was asleep and that I will most likely be in therapy for many years to come, while I work on what’s been damaged.”

The sentencing hearing will continue March 28 with submissions from Imbai’s lawyer. Crown expects Imbai to be sentenced the same day.