GATINEAU, Que. – A former military medical technician pleaded not guilty Wednesday to an array of sexual assault and breach of trust charges on the first day of his court martial.
James Wilks, a petty officer second class who is now retired, was originally charged with 11 counts of sexual assault and 18 counts of breach of trust under the National Defence Act.
Three of the charges were withdrawn as the proceedings got underway; Wilks now faces 26 charges involving 16 women over a six-year span.
The charges allege inappropriate medical exams at Ontario military recruitment sites in Thunder Bay and London from 2003 to 2009. None of the allegations have been proven in court.
Wilks said nothing as he walked into the courtroom wearing a dark suit, red tie and sunglasses.
He stood and repeated “Not guilty, your honour” every time military judge Lt.-Col. Louis-Vincent d’Auteuil asked how he pleaded to each of the charges.
Outside the court, military prosecutor Maj. Dylan Kerr underscored the seriousness of the charges.
“Petty officer Wilks was entrusted with a particular role in an official capacity,” Kerr said. “So we take that quite seriously.”
Maj. David Hodson, the lawyer representing Wilks, cautioned against rushing to judgment.
“Petty officer second class Wilks is entitled to a presumption of innocence, and he will not be convicted until the prosecution presents enough innocence that the judge is satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt to convict him,” Hodson said.
Much of the first day of the court martial was tied up in procedural matters. D’Auteuil granted Kerr’s request for a publication ban on any information that might identify some of the women making the allegations.
Wilks also faces separate civil lawsuits that claim the military didn’t act on reports about his alleged conduct.
Three women filed statements of claim with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice alleging that Wilks sexually assaulted them during physical exams for recruits at various National Defence installations in Ontario.
A fourth woman last year filed a similar civil claim against Wilks. It alleges he touched her breasts and pressed his groin against her during a recruitment medical exam.