Judge Under Fire at Public Inquiry For Asking Sexual Assault Victim Why She Didn’t Keep Her Knees Together
The court of public opinion never gets a say in a criminal trial. But a public inquiry currently being held by the Canadian Judicial Council (CJC) is being conducted to give the public a vote on a Canadian judge’s behavior during a sexual assault trial. In fact, the only thing at stake during this hearing is the opinion of the court of public opinion.
It is not a trial, but a hearing on a judge’s behavior. The outcome could change the way the Canadian public perceives, reports, and judges sexual assault trials.
A week-long hearing and public inquiry is underway in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, as the Canadian Justice Council hears evidence to determine if a Canadian judge should lose his job for asking a sexual assault complainant during his ruling, “Why didn’t you just keep your knees together?” reports the Canadian Press.
It is a ruling that has created a public outcry in Canada. He also frequently referred to the victim as “the accused” in his ruling that has come under fire by judiciaries at all levels of the Canadian justice system.
Judge Camp referred to the rape victim as "the accused" during the trial. Has that been explained? Very odd….. https://t.co/JH01HWeR6t
— Darbycar (@DarbyCar) September 7, 2016
According to information submitted in a pre-hearing submission filing to the CJC, Judge Camp’s defense of his 2014 remarks is that he did not know that what he said was inappropriate.
Judge Camp’s defense to this comment, and others, is that prior to securing a seat on the provincial criminal bench, and prior to being named head of Domestic Violent Criminal Court, and prior to his controversial ruling, he did not know that it was inappropriate to ask a woman alleging rape, “Why didn’t you just keep your knees together? Why didn’t you just move your bottom more?”
He is also saying he has undergone education since that ruling and realizes now that this is inappropriate. He is also telling the CJC that, because he has that education now, he is fit for the bench and should keep his job.
The Canadian Federal Court page biography of the Honourable Justice Robin Camp says that in 2012, Justice Camp was appointed head of the Domestic Violence Court. This means that Justice Camp did not know at the time that he was given that appointment that it was inappropriate and insensitive to ask a rape victim why she didn’t hold her knees together, or to tell a Crown prosecutor that he hoped she didn’t live too long.
His career has been primarily in commercial litigation, according to this biography, and the statements in the pre-hearing submissions that he has no experience with domestic violence crime are correct. Yet he was appointed the head of the division.
All of Canada that is complaining about his behavior is aware that his comments were inappropriate.
The multiple lawyers that formally filed the complaint to the Canadian Judicial Council that launched this process knew the comments were inappropriate. So did the Alberta Court of Appeal that overturned his acquittal on the rape case in question.
Justice Camp says he’s undergone the appropriate education and is ready to judge cases properly now. The Canadian public, particularly women’s groups and anti-violence groups across Canada, feel otherwise, according to documents filed to the Canadian Judicial Council prior to the hearings that started this week.
The committee hearing these submissions will make a recommendation to Canadian Parliament on whether or not Judge Camp should lose his job for making these comments to a rape victim. The entire inquiry in this week’s hearings stems from a case in 2014, following a request from the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Alberta on December 22, 2015.
The Case That Started It All….
The matter refers to the case of the Crown v. Wagar, or R. v. Wagar, as the cases are referred to in Canada. That trial took place in Calgary, Alberta, and was presided over by Justice Camp. Justice Camp was a provincial judge, and head of Domestic Violence Court at the time that case was heard.
He has since been promoted to the federal bench. He has also since earned the nickname “knees together judge” in Canada.
The trial at the heart of this inquiry took place between June 5 and August 6, 2014. Justice Camp’s ruling was that the alleged rape had not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. He then proceeded to blame the victim for not holding her knees together during the incident in an effort to prevent the crime.
— bmaggiemay (@bmaggiemay) September 7, 2016
He also told the accused that he should warn his friends to be more careful and to protect themselves from future sexual assault complaints. He also told the Crown attorney prosecuting the case, “I hope you don’t live too long” according to the Notice of Allegations filed for the Public Inquiry.
Justice Camp has admitted to having committed all of these acts, as noted in his response to the Notice of Allegations filed to the Canadian Judicial Council. They are no longer just allegations. He had no choice but to admit it, as all of the allegations stem from statements he made himself that became public record in the case of R v. Wagar.
As The Inquisitr previously reported, the acquittal of the accused rapist was appealed, and promptly overturned by the Alberta Court of Appeals citing errors of law related to rape myths and rape bias. The rape trial has been rescheduled for November 2016, the alleged assailant is in jail awaiting trial. Meanwhile, Justice Camp has undergone a public inquiry, and may lose his seat on the bench.
Judge Robin Camp arrives with family as his Canadian Judicial Council hearing begins. pic.twitter.com/4KpCEupVEe
— Jason Markusoff (@markusoff) September 6, 2016
Lawyer for Justice Camp, Frank Addario, has said that he feels the judge is “fit and qualified to be a judge” reports Maclean’s Magazine. But, Maclean’s reports, Presenting Counsel to the Canadian Judicial Council (CJC), Queen’s Counsel Marjorie Hickey, says:
“The focus should not be on whether Justice Camp’s short comings can be or have been remedied… but whether public confidence can be remedied without removal of Justice Camp from office.”
And this is the focus of the entire inquiry. Justice Camp is not a defendant in a trial. He is the subject of an inquiry as to whether or not the public has confidence in him and the justice system that handles rape allegations.
It may not be a trial, but it is no small deal for a judge to reach the stage of a public inquisition. If the CJC finds that the public does not have confidence in him, or the system, the CJC will have no choice but to recommend that he be removed from the bench. And, if they do recommend removal, and he is removed from the bench for these comments, it will be a big win for sexual assault activists, and an historical win for how sexual assault is managed in the justice system in Canada moving forward. The stakes are high.
About the Victim…
Maclean’s reports that Hickey’s star witness at the hearing was the victim, now 24 years old. The original trial against the accused was ordered a retrial last year when all of this hit the fan. As a result, the victim is still a sexual assault complainant, and her identity remains protected under the publication ban afforded to all sexual assault victims in Canada pursuant to s. 486.4 of the Criminal Code.
Queen’s Counsel Marjorie Hickey, Presenting Counsel for the Public Inquiry has issued a Notice of Motion to the inquiry committee, seeking a publication ban on any identifying information of the victim. The victim agrees, according to the Notice of Motion, that she wishes to have her identity remain under the ban at least until the close of the upcoming trial in November 2016.
Maclean’s reports that the victim’s statements during this week’s hearing were stark. She reportedly cried and “sighed deeply” when making her statements. Maclean’s reports she told the CJC,
“He made me hate myself and he made me feel like I should have done something. That I was some kind of slut.”
She also reportedly was suicidal after the original ruling and “got high for days” looking for a way to just love herself again. She also second guessed going to the retrial and having to go through all of this all over again, reports Maclean’s. But, she says she thinks of other victims in Canada when considering all of this that has gone on since she came forward to report rape.
“My biggest worry is about the victims that will never come forward because of what they read in the newspaper about Justice Camp’s words. I’m glad someone’s taking action – well, trying to.”
The Notice of Allegations….
According to the Notice of Allegations filed with the CJC, there are six key allegations against Justice Camp that are on record for the action being taken. He is being accused of comments that “reflected an antipathy” towards rape legislation. He is being accused of engaging in rape bias and rape stereotypes, in allegations that comprise two of the six allegations.
He’s being accused of “rude or derogatory” personal comment about Crown [prosecuting] counsel…by stating to the Crown, “I hope you don’t live too long, Ms. Mograbee.” That comment came after the Crown suggested the Justice’s thinking was “antiquated.” Justice Camp is also being accused of belittling and trivializing the victim’s complaints, and also for belittling women in general as well as engaging in rape bias.
— Bill Graveland (@BillGraveland) September 6, 2016
In the Notice of Allegations, belittling women allegations and rape bias allegations are stemming from trial transcripts where he told the accused:
“You’ve got to be very sure that the girl wants you to do it. Please tell your friends so that they don’t upset women and so that they don’t get into trouble. We’re far more protective of women – young women and older women – than we used to be.”
According to the opening submissions filed on behalf of Justice Camp’s lawyer, Justice Camp has agreed that he committed misconduct under each of these allegations. He has also said that he’s been schooled on appropriate sexual assault responses by psychologists since this ruling, who have testified at this hearing.
Does This Behavior Meet the Test for Removal From the Bench?
The big question is, will this behavior that he has admitted to meet the test for removal of office, which is the only matter being investigated by this public inquiry. Two 24-page documents have been filed with the CJC on the matter by anti-violence groups saying that yes, it does.
In pre-hearing CJC filings, there are two factors that must be met to meet the test of having him removed from the bench. The recommendation for removal will be made if he is found incapacitated because he is guilty of misconduct or has failed in his duties, or:
“Implicit in the test for removal is the concept that public confidence in the judge would be sufficiently undermined to render him or her incapable of executing judicial office in the future in light of his or her conduct to date.”
What the Women’s Groups Have To Say
Multiple anti-violence and women’s groups from all over the country have filed lengthy documents expressing their lack of confidence in this judge. These groups include but are not limited to, the Avalon Sexual Assault Centre, Ending Violence Association of British Columbia, Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women, Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children, West Coast Women’s Legal Education and Action fund, and Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund.
We're over 91% of the way to reaching our crowdfunding goal! Please help us reach $10,000. https://t.co/a5FL1flhE2
— Avalon Centre (@CentreAvalon) May 22, 2016
Clearly, a lot of women in Canada have a problem with Justice Camp. Clearly, the public confidence in his ability to fairly preside from the bench has been diminished greatly, according to many very loud voices all across Canada. The women’s groups in one filing to the CJC have collectively referred to themselves as the “Intervener Coalition” in hearing filings.
They say this public inquiry on a sexual assault judge in Canada “occurs at a time of heightened public concern about sexual assault and sexual harassment in a variety of contexts.” The Coalition is referring to the fact that this is the acquittal year for Jian Ghomeshi. The Coalition is referring to the fact that this year, the topic of abuse and violence against Aboriginal women is a household conversation for Canadian women.
The Coalition brings up statistics in their filings to the CJC, saying that only six percent of Canadian sexual assault victims report their crimes because of their fear of the justice system. They also say that the domestic violence rate in indigenous women is 115 per 1,000 population.
In the year of Ghomeshi’s acquittal, the review of the 'knees-together' judge' won't be considered in isolation. https://t.co/0TRTNvssPv
— Maclean’s Magazine (@macleans) September 7, 2016
The Coalition says to the CJC, by recommending that Justice Camp be taken off of the bench, they will be taking one small step for victims of sexual assault in Canada. They say:
“The Committee can have a significant impact on public perceptions about the extent to which sexual stereotypes are acceptable in the context of judicial reasoning. The outcome of this Inquiry will have a broad impact on the conduct of sexual assault trials in the future, and contribute to society’s discussions about gender equality and how the justice system responds to sexual assault and complaints.”
The Agreed Upon Statement of Facts (ASF)
The Agreed Upon Statement of Facts is still being finalized, according to the pre-hearing submission filings. It will include transcripts of both the original trial and the appeal court ruling. It will include the Crown factum and all complaints about Justice Camp filed to the CJC.
It will also include a spreadsheet of every single media report or story that has been done on this case. This will be to show the CJC that the court of public opinion has spoken, and that perceptions are not good.
A simple Google search using the keyword “Justice Robin Camp” yields 11.4 million results at the time of press.
In the statement of facts, Justice Camp agrees that he said the things they say he said. He does not agree that his comments have anything to do with “rape myth.” He does not agree with the Alberta Court of Appeals that he conducted errors of law.
Most judges that have their rulings overturned, don’t. The evidence list will include multiple character witnesses and letters. A letter from his daughter saying that she was raped once and he was sympathetic is entered into evidence.
— Canada News (@canadanews5) September 7, 2016
How that will change the public’s perception and make them feel safe again remains to be seen. The resumes of individuals that have worked with Justice Camp to educate him on gender stereotyping will also be included in the evidence.
Judge Camp intends on submitting multiple character reference letters during the course of the public inquiry. Paragraph 62 of the pre-hearing submissions shows that the admission of those letters has been objected to by Presenting Counsel Queen’s Counsel Marjorie Hickey, but an agreement was reached to allow them for the purposes of the hearing.
How much weight will be given to the character reference letters remains to be seen. It is noted in the pre-hearing submissions that with the agreement to allow them to be submitted, the committee will discuss their weight at the time they are presented.
It appears that the confidence of the public will be the determining variable in whether or not Judge Camp keeps his job. What Judge Camp’s friends think of him will not play a large role in that decision.
What happens next?
Whatever happens at this inquiry is just one step, and it won’t even be the final step for Judge Camp. It is very difficult to remove a judge from the bench in Canada. The judicial council will make their inquiry and then send it off to Canadian Parliament for a vote.
If removal from office is the recommendation, the Federal Justice Minister The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, a known activist in Canada for violence against aboriginal and indigenous women and one of the most powerful women in Canada, will receive the decision first. It will then be sent to Parliament, where both houses must pass a vote on the same decision.
— CBC Politics (@CBCPolitics) September 8, 2016
In Canada, the Liberal Party holds the majority in the House. This is how the public’s voice will be heard in this case.
The inquiry is not expected to last longer than a week and is already two days in. The hearing has heard from the victim in this case, and from the psychologist who worked with Justice Camp after the complaints against him were filed. CBC News reports that she told the CJC yesterday that, while her jaw dropped reading the trial transcripts, she does not believe he is a misogynist.
The public inquiry is expected to last to the end of the week. We do not know when a decision or ruling will be made, but that is unlikely to happen this week. We will update you when that ruling is made public, and what the next steps are for Justice Robin Camp. Do you think he should keep his job?
[Photo by ThinkStock]