Canadian judge Robin Camp could lose job over shocking comments to alleged rape victim

By Marnie O’Neill

Warning: Some readers may find content distressing
A campaign has been launched to throw Justice Camp off the bench. Photo / Federal Court of Canada
A campaign has been launched to throw Justice Camp off the bench. Photo / Federal Court of Canada

If you thought Stanford rape trial judge Aaron Persky was insensitive, wait till you meet his Canadian equivalent.

Alberta judge Robin Camp makes Persky, who generated global outrage by sentencing former college student Brock Turner to just six months for rape, look gender progressive.

Justice Camp's gobsmacking treatment of a teenage alleged rape victim has come back to haunt him as a campaign to throw him off the bench gathers force, casting a shadow over his recent promotion to the Federal Court.

The 19-year-old homeless woman had accused a Calgary man named Alexander Scott Wagar of raping her over a bathroom sink at a house party.

During the trial, Justice Camp repeatedly called the victim "the accused" and asked her questions like: "Why couldn't you just keep your knees together?" and "why didn't you just sink your bottom down into the basin so he couldn't penetrate you?"

He berated her for apparently not trying hard enough to escape the 115kg Wagar's clutches, saying: "If you were ... frightened you could have screamed".

While conceding there could be truth to the victim's claim the experience was physically painful at the "rough" hands of the accused, Justice Camp observed: "Sex is very often a challenge. Sex and pain sometimes go together, that ... that's not necessarily a bad thing".

When Crown Prosecutor Hyatt Mograbee objected and accused the judge of "antiquated thinking", he retorted, "I hope you don't live too long, Ms Mograbee."

Justice Camp acquitted Wagar, dismissing the crime as a "misbehaviour" and even advised him how he could avoid getting himself into a similar pickle in the future.

"You've got to be really sure that she's saying yes ... so remind yourself every time that you get involved with a girl from now on and tell your friends, okay?"

In October last year, Alberta's Court of Criminal Appeal overturned the acquittal and ordered a new trial. It was during this process that Justice Camp's offensive comments were made public in their entirety.

The Canadian Judicial Council (CJC) was flooded with complaints, many of them from sexual assault survivors, and calls for the judge to be sacked.

But even as an investigation began, centring on six allegations focusing on comments he made about Canada's Rape Shield law, the complainant and the prosecutor, Justice Camp was being promoted from a provincial court judge to the Federal Court.

The ill-considered appointment fuelled another round of complaints, bringing to more than 30 the number of individuals and groups who have filed submissions calling for Justice Camp's removal.

In response, the watchdog agreed to hold a hearing into his behaviour at the 2014 rape trial. This week it was announced the hearing would take place in August.

In the meantime, Justice Camp is making a desperate effort to keep his job. He has filed his own submission to the CJC, explaining that he believes the whole sorry episode has made him a better judge and a better person.

"He believes his training, counselling and this process as a whole have left him better equipped to judge cases with the empathy, wisdom and sensitivity to social context to which all judges aspire," the judge's notice of response states.

"He now understands that some of his prior thinking was infected with stereotypical beliefs and discredited myths."

His future will be decided by a panel of five judges and lawyers who will recommend whether Justice Camp should remain on the bench at the Federal Court even though the conduct in question occurred when he was a provincial court judge in Calgary.

Justice Camp spent three years presiding over the provincial courts. Alberta Court of Appeal records show two of his rulings were appealed and overturned with new trials ordered.

In one case, the Court of Appeal found the judge made an error in law when he granted a stay in proceedings in a case where three people were violently attacked with a hammer.

- news.com.au

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