‘Knees together’ rape case judge should be fired – Canadian inquiry committee

© AFP
A judicial committee has called for top Canadian judge Justice Robin Camp to be discharged, after a case in which he asked an alleged rape victim why she could not “keep her knees together.”

We conclude that Justice Camp’s conduct […] was so manifestly and profoundly destructive of the concept of the impartiality, integrity and independence of the judicial role that public confidence is sufficiently undermined to render the judge incapable of executing the judicial office,” a unanimous recommendation released on Wednesday by the five-person inquiry committee

Justice Camp made headlines globally after it emerged he had aggressively questioned an alleged rape victim in a 2014 case, asking her why she hadn’t done more to prevent the incident. At the time, the South African-born Camp was a provincial judge in Alberta, prior to being appointed to the Federal Court, making him one of the most senior legal authorities in the country.

Why couldn’t you just keep your knees together?” the judge asked the plaintiff in the case, a homeless woman who was 19 at the time of the alleged rape. He repeatedly called the woman “the accused,” and told her that “sex and pain sometimes go together ... that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Camp ruled in favor of the defendant in the case, saying the complainant did not show “why she allowed the sex to happen if she didn’t want it,” and had moral values that “leave a lot to be desired.

A year ago, an appeal court overturned Camp’s verdict, claiming that he only came to Canada in 1998 and had relied on “stereotypical myths” while not being well-versed in local sexual assault law. An opinion piece by four leading legal experts then brought public attention to the case, and landed Camp himself on the defendants’ bench.

In September this year, an inquiry began looking into whether Camp should continue his work as a judge. During the inquiry, the victim of the 2014 rape case testified that she was deeply traumatized by Camp’s treatment of her at the trial.

“[Camp] made me hate myself and he made me feel like I should have done something ... that I was some kind of slut,” said the woman, claiming the incident made her contemplate suicide. The 64-year-old judge apologized for his remarks, claiming he had not understood the particularities of Canadian laws aimed at sheltering sexual assault victims from discriminatory attitudes.

I was not the good judge I thought I was. I struck the wrong tone in counsel submissions. I was rude and facetious,” he said to the inquiry panel, admitting that he “intimidated” the complainant.

However, despite Camp’s apparent remorse, the inquiry committee concluded that his questions showed “an antipathy towards laws designed to protect vulnerable witnesses, promote equality and bring integrity to sexual assault trials,” while relying on “discredited myths and stereotypes about women and victim-blaming during the trial and in his reasons for judgment.

We do not accept that the Judge's conduct was simply use of ‘inappropriate and insensitive language’ or merely reflective of a lack of understanding of the neurobiology of fear and trauma. Rather, we conclude that his conduct was motivated by his biased belief that women should resist—that they should ‘fight off aggression’—or be taken as having consented,” the inquiry committee stated in the recommendation. The document will now be submitted to and reviewed by the Canadian Judicial Council.

The inquiry committee expresses the unanimous view that a recommendation by council for Justice Camp’s removal is warranted,” the panel stated. Justice Camp, however, will have a chance to make written submissions before the council issues a final official recommendation regarding his fate to Canada’s justice minister.