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Toronto Sun

Ex struggles while doc flies south

THE PLASTIC SURGEON

Toronto Sun, By Michele Mandel, May 2, 2004

IT IS A sunny, but cool morning -- far from the warm climes and ocean breezes of the Bahamas. High in a University Ave. courtroom, a tanned Dr. Kenneth Dickie has travelled here from his new home in Freeport to face a contempt of court charge for not paying more than $180,000 in child and spousal support since December, 2002.

With the rugged good looks of his namesake Mattel doll, the plastic surgeon rises to do what he can to convince the lady judge why he should not be jailed for 60 days and have his passport seized.

His immediate future rests in his surgeon's hands -- he can no longer afford a lawyer, he says.

In a long preamble, the doctor insists he did not abruptly flee the country to escape his support payments.

FOLLOWED OTHERS

Instead, the former chief of surgery at Sarnia General Hospital was just following other Ontario doctors who had gone abroad because of their unhappiness with the medical system.

In February, 2001, he learned the Sunrise Medical Centre in Freeport needed a plastic surgeon.

His 1993 separation agreement required him to pay spousal support only until April, 2001.

When his ex-wife announced her plans to contest the agreement, he says he offered to continue paying until their three children completed university.

She could have his two-year-old Lexus as well. But he says she refused and hired Toronto lawyer Harold Niman.

Dickie did take up the Freeport offer but insists that he continued to make his support payments.

When his practice failed to generate enough income, he turned to the father of his new wife to help him out with a loan of $200,000.

"It was not my intention to leave my ex-wife and children in a 'financial nightmare,' " the surgeon tells the court.

His last payment, however, was back in November, 2002 -- and nothing since. Dickie says his medical centre is on the brink of bankruptcy and he can't afford to pay.

His ex-wife's lawyer is not feeling any pangs of sympathy for the nervous doctor.

Niman points out that Dickie has a 2000 Porsche in his garage and a statement of personal expenses that total $11,000 US a month, including $500 in toiletries.

"It's more important to spend money on charity or toiletries than on your wife and children?" the lawyer charges.

"My client is virtually bankrupt. His former wife and children haven't gotten a cent in 14 months."

***

In a small town in Alberta, Leaka Dickie, 49, awaits word on her ex-husband's court case.

SCRIMPING TO GET BY

For more than a year, she and her children, 21, 19 and 17, have had to rely on her salary and her RRSP savings to get by.

But now she's not working and cash became so tight that her oldest son had to drop out of his second year of university to help out. "We're in a financial nightmare," she says.

"He's in the Bahamas driving a Porsche and one of his children has had to quit school -- I can't imagine much worse," her lawyer adds.

His ex-wife doesn't believe his claims that he doesn't have the cash to help them. "He's been saying that for years when he was making millions. I think judges are tired of hearing that.

"It's been an ongoing battle on support. These are his children. He needs to be there for his children, not just for his new wife and family. They were there first."

***

Niman wants the plastic surgeon thrown into jail for 60 days for contempt and his passport seized.

Dickie rises once more to protest his inability to pay and the "most vicious" way he has been pursued.

"I simply do not have these funds," he insists.

Madam Justice Stewart retires to consider her decision. Dickie awaits his fate with his father-in-law.

"We get a lot of them here," shrugs a court officer. "The ones who make a lot seem to have the hardest time paying."

After an hour, the judge returns to the small courtroom to deliver her verdict. "I find it impossible to accept his professed inability to pay as fact," she decrees.

Dickie, she notes, had never attempted "even partial compliance" with the previous court orders. While not ordering that he surrender his passport, she does sentence the surgeon to 45 days in jail. Dickie asks the judge for time to arrange his affairs back in the Bahamas, but she tells him he is out of time.

A few minutes later, the tanned doctor is on his way to Metro West Detention Centre.