‘Knees together’ judge resigns after judicial body says he should be fired
The judge who told a complainant in a sex assault trial that she should have kept her “knees together” has resigned after the Canadian Judicial Council recommended he be fired.
In a statement announcing his resignation, Justice Robin Camp said, “I would like to express my sincere apology to everyone who was hurt by my comments during the [Alexander] Wagar trial.”
During the 2014 trial, Camp suggested the 19-year-old female complainant could avoid penetration “if she skews her pelvis slightly.” He asked her, “Why couldn’t you just keep your knees together?” and said, “sex and pain sometimes go together …that’s not necessarily a bad thing.”
Judges are expected to be “knowledgeable jurists” with “knowledge of social issues, an awareness of changes in social values, humility, fairness, empathy, tolerance, consideration and respect for others,” the Council’s report states. Canadians expect them to know the law but also be empathetic. “We find that Justice Robin Camp failed to meet those high standards and acted in a manner that seriously undermined public confidence in the judiciary,” the Council stated.
The recommendation wasn’t an automatic firing, though. A judge can only be removed through a joint resolution of parliament, the Council said in a statement.
The council’s recommendation comes the day after Canada’s parliament decided to fast-track a bill that would make comprehensive sexual assault training mandatory for federally-appointed judges. Conservative leader Rona Ambrose said her bill, which has received cross-party support, would “make sure that judges aren’t making basic errors or even worse, painful comments that make victims think twice of ever pursuing justice.”
Earlier this week, protesters took to the streets of Halifax to demand another judge, Justice Gregory Lenehan, face an inquiry after he acquitted a taxi driver of sexual assault. In his ruling the judge said “clearly a drunk can consent,” although critics have emphasized that the complainant was found unconscious in the back of the cab while the driver’s pants were undone.
Judge Camp made an effort to educate himself after the trial in question, the report states, but the education “could not adequately repair the damage caused to public confidence by the Judge’s conduct.”
Justice Camp’s conduct “was so manifestly and profoundly destructive of the concept of 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 committee report to the Council declared. The committee’s 23 members said in a report that the judge relied on “discredited myths and stereotypes” about sexual assault and consent.
Judge Camp found the accused in the 2014 trial, Alexander Wagar, not guilty. The judge’s comments led a court to overturn his ruling and order a second trial, which ended in January. Wagar was acquitted again.
Cover: Todd Korol/The Canadian Press