Canadian judge apologises for asking accuser in rape case why she couldn't keep her knees together

By Kristine Guerra

Federal Court Justice Robin Camp has apologised for his comments. Photo / Federal Court of Canada
Federal Court Justice Robin Camp has apologised for his comments. Photo / Federal Court of Canada

The Canadian federal judge who found himself in hot water for asking an alleged rape victim during a trial why she couldn't keep her knees together said he now regrets those comments.

Federal Court Justice Robin Camp testified in a hearing on Friday before a five-member committee - three judges and two lawyers - that will hear evidence and testimony until Wednesday.

The Canadian Judicial Council, a federal body that polices judges, launched an investigation into Camp's conduct after four law professors filed a complaint against him.

"I'm very sorry that, on reflection and rereading what I said, that I intimidated her using facetious words," Camp told the committee in his testimony, according to CBC News.

During a trial in 2014, Camp accused the woman of not doing enough to defend herself during the alleged attack and suggested that she wanted to have sex. The then-19-year-old woman had accused a Calgary man of raping her over a bathroom sink during a house party.

At times, Camp falsely referred to the woman as "the accused," according to media reports.

"Why couldn't you just keep your knees together?" he told the woman, according to a notice of allegations posted on the Canadian Judicial Council website. "Why didn't you just sink your bottom down into the basin so he couldn't penetrate you?"

Camp also said that young women "want to have sex, particularly if they're drunk," and that "some sex and pain sometimes go together."

He acquitted the accused, Alexander Wagar, in September 2014. The woman appealed, and the Alberta Court of Appeal overturned Camp's ruling, according to a statement of facts. Wagar is scheduled for a retrial in November.

Camp told the committee that "to [his] shame," he didn't realise his mistakes until his verdict was appealed, CBC News reported.

The 64-year-old judge said his words came from a "deep-rooted" bias "that all women behave the same way and should resist," CBC News reported.

"I wish I hadn't said them," Camp said, according to CBC News. "I can't guarantee that I'm not prejudiced in other areas. ... I have learned to be constantly vigilant against it."

Camp was a judge for the Alberta Provincial Court Criminal Division in Calgary when he made those comments against the woman. He became a federal judge last year and is at risk of losing his post. Federal judges in Canada may stay on the bench until they are 75.

Camp also apologised to his wife and daughter for the "embarrassment" he has caused them, CBC News reported.

"I recognise that I'd made a number of vulnerable people miserable. I was very unhappy with myself," Camp said. "The person I most want to apologise for is the complainant."

The woman, whose identity has been concealed, said the judge's remarks made her hate herself, according to media reports.

Camp's daughter, who said she herself is a rape victim, testified Thursday that her father's comments were "disgraceful." But she said she stands by him, according to CBC News.

Kim Stanton, legal director for the Women's Legal Education and Action Fund, told CBC News that Camp's comments represent a larger problem within the criminal justice system and will have a lasting impact on the public.

"It's terrible that sexist language was used; it's much more terrible that the public may have a perception that they will go into a courtroom and the judge won't apply the law," Stanton said.

Records say Camp, who grew up in South Africa and studied at the University of Stellenbosch, did not receive training or judicial education on sexual assault law in Canada and how to preside over rape trials.

During his Friday testimony, Camp acknowledged his lack of knowledge about Canadian criminal law.

"My colleagues knew my knowledge of Canadian law was very minimal. It was nonexistent," Camp said, according to the Canadian Press. "Please remember I wasn't in this country through the 1960s, '70s and '80s. I was in South Africa, where we had other issues."

Camp moved his family to Calgary in 1998. His practice focused mostly on contractual, trust, oil and gas, and bankruptcy litigation. He was appointed to the Alberta Provincial Court Criminal Division in March 2012. He became a federal judge in June 2015.

After hearing testimonies, the committee will prepare a report that will then go to the Canadian Judicial Council for discussion. The council will then make a recommendation to the Canadian parliament on whether Camp should be removed from the bench.

- Washington Post

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