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Massage therapist charged after four year investigation

A Richmond massage therapist is facing two counts of sexual assault involving allegations that date back to 2008.

Gordon Hall was working as a registered massage therapist at Minoru Massage Therapy Clinic at the Minoru Aquatic Centre back in 2008, when one of his alleged victims first contacted The Richmond Review.

The woman, who is in her 20s and asked that her name not be published, said in November 2008 that she and her girlfriend wanted to come forward with their stories in hopes that other people Hall may have victimized will contact police. Both she and her friend filed complaints with the College of Massage Therapists of British Columbia.

But The Review was unable to confirm there was an investigation, as neither the college nor the RCMP were commenting. And it wasn’t until this week that charges were officially sworn after being approved by the Crown.

Reached on Tuesday, the woman said she was contacted last year by a private investigator hired by the College of Massage Therapists, after a “number of women came forward” to make complaints to the college.

“It’s something always in the back of my mind,” she said.

She said she’s been subpoenaed to testify.

The college turned the file over to the Richmond RCMP for a criminal investigation, and investigators then contacted the alleged victims to see if they’d be willing to make a police statement, she said.

According to court records, Hall is now charged with a Jan. 1, 2008 sexual assault, and another on Nov. 1, 2008. The charges have not been proven in a court of law, and Hall is scheduled to make his first appearance in Richmond provincial court on Oct. 25.

When she first spoke with The Review, the woman who wished to remain anonymous was visibly shaken and expressed that she felt violated, but also thought she’d done something wrong.

She’d first turned to Hall to deal with a car accident injury, she said in 2008.

An anonymous message left with The Richmond Review last weekend noted the allegations against Hall.

”Gordon Hall has a history of disciplinary actions against him by the College of Massage Therapists of British Columbia for sexual touching and sexually inappropriate behaviour with patients. After completing the sanctions required of him, which included 12 mandated counselling sessions and a 60-day suspension, he was given back his licence to treat patients. Shortly after, he began to sexually abuse and assault another patient at the Minoru Massage Therapy Clinic at the Minoru Aquatic Centre,” the person said, seemingly reading from a written statement.

According to the college’s website (www.cmtbc.bc.ca), Hall was prohibited from providing massage therapy services to female patients pending an investigation of a complaint made to the college by a former patient on Feb. 16, 2011.

“The committee determined this prohibition was necessary to protect the public,” the college said on its website.

When asked why the college didn’t proactively release information about Hall beyond its website, Joelle Berry, director of compliance for the college, said the college is currently reviewing its practices relating the rights of privacy of its members and the best interests of the public.

“The college is bound by the confines of the Health Professions Act,” she said.

She said the information about actions taken against him were posted promptly on the college’s website.

Susan Addario, registrar for the college, said the college thought placing a restriction against Hall was enough to protect the public.

But when asked how the college could be sure Hall was complying with the restriction, Addario said the college collects information from the public, patients and other registered therapists.

Accessing the college’s website is the “normal way” the public can learn about a health professional when seeking one out.

Under the college’s Inquiry and Discipline Notices, the college’s website says a former patient of Hall alleged that on June 12, 2008, he “failed to respect patient/therapist boundaries in his verbal and physical conduct, with the result that his patient perceived that he made contact with her person for sexual rather than therapeutic purposes.”

Hall admitted to professional misconduct, and agreed to a 60-day suspension, and was fined $5,000, with a portion of that fine paying for the counselling for the former patient.

He also underwent 12 counselling sessions with a psychologist, the website says.

According to an ad posted in The Steveston Villager Community & Newsletter in January of 2011, Hall announced he was opening a new clinic in West Richmond, “in the heart of historic Steveston, after 16 years of practice as a Registered Massage Therapist in and around Richmond, British Columbia.”

His office, West Richmond Massage Therapy & Rehab Clinic, is located at 268-3580 Moncton St. and offers “massage therapy and rehab treatments, to help promote optimal health and well being.”

Rhianna Featherstone, a registered massage therapist at West Richmond Massage, said that although Hall still owns the clinic, she’s been the sole provider of massage therapy services there for about a year.

She was hired in April 2011 to serve as a locum at the clinic, because Hall was being investigated by the college, and they had placed a restriction on him that barred him from treating women.

“He considers himself innocent of the charges,” said Featherstone, who added that she’s worried her practice will suffer because of the clinic’s association to Hall and the sexual assault allegations.

“I’ve worked really hard to build up the practice,” she said.

According to Featherstone, Hall did not renew his licence last December.

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