A Canadian judge who asked a rape accuser why she “couldn’t keep her knees together” during a trial resigned on Thursday, after a judicial review released a damning report calling for him to be removed from the bench.
In a report released on Thursday, the Canadian Judicial Council said the conduct by Justice Robin Camp of Alberta Federal Court during a 2014 sex assault trial was so “manifestly and profoundly destructive” of the concept of judicial impartiality and independence that he could not stay in office.
Camp was presiding over the trial of a 29-year-old Calgary man, Alexander Wagar, who had been accused of raping a 19-year old woman over a bathroom sink at a house party.
According to transcripts, throughout the trial, he repeatedly referred to the victim as the “accused” and questioned why she had allowed the sex to happen if she didn’t want it, adding that she could have avoided the attack by sinking her bottom “down into the basin.”
“Why couldn’t you just keep your knees together? Camp asked at some point.
He also implied that women were inherently promiscuous (“particularly if they’re drunk”), saying that “pain and sex sometimes go together,” which is not “necessarily a bad thing.”
Camp acquitted the defendant in September 2014 but his decision was overturned by an appeals court. Wagar was then acquitted again in January following a retrial with a new judge who concluded there was reasonable doubt he had committed the crime.
The Canadian Judicial Council launched an inquiry into Camp the following November after four law professors filed a formal complaint against him, citing his “rude” and “derogatory comments” that had “trivialize(d) the nature of the allegations.”
RT garyjoelclement: My opinion on Judge Robin Camp's opinion. pic.twitter.com/sTT6EUn693
— Canada News (@canadanews5) September 9, 2016
During the investigation, Camp’s daughter Lauren, herself a rape victim, said that although her father’s comments were certainly “disgraceful” and “old-fashioned,” he was not the sexist brute caricatured in the media, CBC News reported.
“I have seen him advance in understanding and empathy for victims, vulnerable litigants and those who have experienced trauma,” she wrote in a letter.
In a rebuttal submission to the judicial council, his lawyer, Frank Addario, argued that his client should be allowed to keep his job as federal judge because he had publicly apologized and taken steps to educate himself.
“Removal is not necessary to preserve public confidence in this case. Justice Camp’s misconduct was the product of ignorance, not animus” Addario wrote.
But the inquiry committee was unimpressed.
They rejected this defense, saying it misses “the most serious point.” They argued that judge’s “crass statements during the trial were fundamentally” antithetical to the contemporary values” of the justice system, noting that one “doesn’t need sensitivity training” to understand their psychological impact on the victim.
This is only the third time the Canadian Judicial Council has recommended a judge’s removal from office since it was created in 1971. In all three cases, the judges voluntarily stepped downed before being ousted.