Inquiry into judge after comments in Alberta sex assault case a positive step
OTTAWA – Alberta’s justice minister has forced an inquiry into a Federal Court judge who asked a sexual assault complainant why she couldn’t keep her knees together.
The Canadian Judicial Council said Thursday that the public inquiry will determine whether Justice Robin Camp should be removed from his job.
An inquiry is held automatically when a provincial justice minister requests one. Alberta Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley asked for the process in a letter to the council last month.
The council had ordered a review panel in November to examine the judge’s conduct in the sex assault case when he was a provincial court judge in Calgary.
Council spokeswoman Johanna Laporte said the panel was going to decide if there should also be an inquiry and Ganley’s request bypassed that step.
In June 2014, Camp acquitted a man of sexually assaulting a 19-year-old girl after deciding that the man’s version of events was more credible.
Three legal academics who filed a complaint about Camp’s decision said he disregarded the law and treated the woman badly.
According to court transcripts, Camp questioned the woman’s morals, suggested her attempts to fight off her attacker were feeble and described her as “the accused” throughout the trial.
He asked her, “Why couldn’t you just keep your knees together?” and said “pain and sex sometimes go together.”
The judge also told the accused after he found him not guilty that all men have to be more gentle and careful with women, and that he should pass the message onto his friends so they wouldn’t get into trouble.
The verdict was overturned on appeal and a new trial was ordered.
Ganley wrote in her letter to the council that Camp’s conduct “was so manifestly and profoundly destructive of the concept of impartiality, integrity and independence of the judicial role that public confidence has been sufficiently undermined to render Justice Camp incapable of executing his judicial office.”
She said Camp’s comments have been widely circulated in the media “and it would be truly unfortunate if this has a chilling effect on victims of sexual abuse, making them hesitant to come forward.”
The Federal Court has ordered Camp not to hear any cases until further notice.
Laporte said that if the inquiry report recommends Camp’s removal from the bench, a recommendation will be made to the federal justice minister. The final decision is up to Parliament.
In an interview with AdvocateDaily.com, Toronto criminal lawyer Roots Gadhia says it is absolutely the right decision to hold an inquiry into the matter.
“These comments were exceptionally inappropriate,” she says. “But for the appeal, the complaint would have never seen the light of day.”
Gadhia says it can be challenging for counsel to raise concerns about in-court comments by a judge.
“Sadly, it usually gets left up to the lawyer on appeal to raise it as a ground if an appeal is filed,” she says. “Otherwise it dies quietly in the wind, or just as a rumour in the hallways of the courthouse meant as a war story or fodder for counsel to chuckle over.”Back to News