Judge to apologize for ‘insensitive’ comments during sex assault trial

Judge asked a sexual assault complainant why she couldn’t keep her knees together

CALGARY — A Federal Court judge who asked a sexual assault complainant why she couldn’t keep her knees together wants to keep serving on the bench and plans to apologize for his remarks at a public hearing.

A Canadian Judicial Council inquiry scheduled for September is to determine whether Justice Robin Camp, who made the comments in 2014 as a provincial court judge in Calgary, should be removed from his job.

A notice of response outlining Camp’s position was posted to the council’s website on Monday.

“Justice Camp wants to continue serving as a judge,” it says. “He believes he can make a positive contribution as a member of the Canadian judiciary. He will strive to keep improving and to keep learning.”

The notice says Camp plans to apologize at the inquiry committee meeting.

Camp has undergone training and counselling with a superior court judge, a psychologist and an expert in sexual assault law.

“His counselling has given him a deeper understanding of the trauma faced by survivors of sexual assault and about the discriminatory history of sexual assault law,” the response says.

“Justice Camp understands his insensitive and inappropriate comments were hurtful towards sexual assault survivors in particular and Canadians generally. He will not make these types of comments again.”

The notice does not represent a review of evidence supporting Camp’s position.

An inquiry committee made up of three council members and two senior lawyers will weigh the allegations against Camp.

Among other things, it’s alleged Camp made comments that “reflected an antipathy” toward laws meant to protect vulnerable witnesses, engaged in “stereotypical or biased thinking” and asked the complainant questions that relied on “discredited, stereotypical assumptions” of how one should behave following a sexual assault.

The council had already ordered a review panel to examine the judge’s decision in the 2014 case.

Camp acquitted a man of sexually assaulting a 19-year-old girl after deciding that the man’s version of events was more credible.

Court transcripts show Camp questioned the woman’s morals, suggested her attempts to fight off her attacker were feeble and described her as “the accused” throughout the trial.

He asked her: “Why couldn’t you just keep your knees together?” and said “pain and sex sometimes go together.”

The verdict was overturned on appeal and a new trial was ordered.

In requesting the inquiry earlier this year, Alberta Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley wrote that Camp’s conduct “was so manifestly and profoundly destructive of the concept of impartiality, integrity and independence of the judicial role that public confidence has been sufficiently undermined to render Justice Camp incapable of executing his judicial office.”

Ganley added it would be “truly unfortunate” if Camp’s widely publicized comments resulted in a “chilling effect on victims of sexual abuse, making them hesitant to come forward.”

The Federal Court has ordered Camp to no longer hear cases until further notice.

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