Judge turned to training after hurtful comments to rape victim

by L&D07 Jul 2016
A judge in Canada could lose his job in the Federal Court after it was revealed he asked a rape victim, "Why couldn't you just keep your knees together?" during an Alberta sexual assault trial.

Federal Court Justice Robin Camp has since apologised and claimed his gender-sensitivity training has left him "better equipped to judge cases with the empathy, wisdom and sensitivity to social context to which all judges aspire".

The trial involved a 19-year-old woman who accused a man of raping her over a bathroom sink at a house party in Calgary.

During the trial, Justice Camp also referred to the victim as "the accused" several times, and asked "why didn’t you just sink your bottom down into the basin so he couldn’t penetrate you?"

He also said: “Sex is very often a challenge. Sex and pain sometimes go together, that ... that’s not necessarily a bad thing”.

The alleged perpetrator was Alexander Scott Wager who ended up being acquitted by Justice Camp.

However, the Alberta Court of Appeal overturned the ruling and ordered a new trial.

Justice Camp addressed his behaviour in a notice of response that was posted to the Canadian Judicial Council's website.

"Justice Camp agrees that he made insensitive and inappropriate comments during the Wager trial," said the response.

"He has apologised generally and specifically. He intends to apologise at the Inquiry Committee hearing."

After the incident, Justice Camp arranged and paid for training and counselling.

This involved him working with a Superior Court judge, a psychologist and an expert on the law of sexual assault, who will all testify on his behalf at the inquiry.

"His counselling has given him a deeper understanding of the trauma faced by survivors of sexual assault and about the discriminatory history of sexual assault law," reads the submission.

"Justice Camp understands his insensitive and inappropriate comments were hurtful towards sexual assault survivors in particular and Canadians generally.

"He will not make these types of comments again."

A hearing into his behaviour at the rape trial will take place in September, it was announced this week.

A panel of five judges and lawyers will recommend whether Justice Camp should remain on the bench at the Federal Court.

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