Federal Court Justice Robin Camp should be removed from bench, inquiry recommends
Federal Court Justice Robin Camp — who asked a woman during a rape trial why she couldn’t just keep her knees together — should be removed from the bench, according to a unanimous recommendation from the Canadian Judicial Council’s committee of inquiry.
Camp was a provincial court judge at the time of the rape trial in Alberta in 2014, in which he acquitted the accused, and was later promoted to the Federal Court. His comments during the trial and subsequent complaints made with the Canadian Judicial Council led to the inquiry.
The committee of inquiry found that “Justice Camp committed misconduct while presiding over the trial,” the council said in a release issued Wednesday morning.
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The council will now consider the committee’s report, after giving Camp an opportunity to make written submissions, and then decide on a formal recommendation to make to the federal justice minister.
Previously, only two judges have been recommended for removal by the Canadian Judicial Council since the review body was created in 1971.
In both those cases, the judges resigned before the recommendations made it to Parliament, which ultimately decides whether or not to dismiss a Canadian judge.
‘He made me hate myself’
The Alberta Court of Appeal later overturned Camp’s acquittal and ordered a new trial of the accused, Alexander Wagar. Closing arguments in that trial concluded in Calgary on Monday and a decision is expected Jan. 31.
The inquiry into Camp’s handling of the original trial heard a week of evidence in September, including testimony from the complainant in the rape trial.
“He made me hate myself,” said the young woman, whose identity is protected by a publication ban.
The inquiry heard how Camp asked her several questions during that trial that he later apologized for, including: “Why couldn’t you just keep your knees together?”
He also implied during the trial that the complainant — who was allegedly raped on a bathroom sink — could have prevented the attack by “sinking her bottom down into the basin.”
Camp also mistakenly referred to her as “the accused” on several occasions during the trial and stated that “sometimes sex and pain go together.”
‘Judge relied on discredited myths and stereotypes’
The inquiry report concluded that, throughout that trial, “Justice Camp made comments or asked questions evidencing an antipathy towards laws designed to protect vulnerable witnesses, promote equality, and bring integrity to sexual assault trials.”
“We also find that the judge relied on discredited myths and stereotypes about women and victim-blaming during the trial and in his reasons for judgment,” the inquiry committee wrote in their 116-page report.
The report goes on to say that Camp “committed misconduct and placed himself, by his conduct, in a position incompatible with the due execution of the office of judge.”
Camp ‘very sorry’ for ‘hurtful’ comments
During his own testimony at the inquiry, Camp apologized for the “hurtful” comments he made to the complainant.
“My concept of what I did wrong has grown,” he testified.
“I’m very sorry that, on reflection and rereading what I said, that I intimidated her, using facetious words.”
A law professor testified during the inquiry that Camp, who was educated in South Africa, didn’t know know the history of sexual assault law in Canada and at times made “rude and stupid” comments during the trial, but she believed that he had learned from the experience.
In a letter presented to the inquiry, Camp’s daughter, Lauren Camp, defended her father, writing that he is “old-fashioned in some ways” and that “there are gaps in his understanding of how women think and experience life,” but adding “he is not an inherent or dedicated sexist.”
“I have seen him advance in understanding and empathy for victims, vulnerable litigants and those who have experienced trauma,” she wrote, saying these lessons would make him a better judge.
She said he is not the “insensitive, sexist brute caricatured in the media.”
Conduct ‘manifestly and profoundly destructive’
The inquiry committee — composed of five Superior Court judges and senior lawyers — was unconvinced, however, concluding Camp’s apologies and “significant efforts” to improve his understanding of sexual assault law after the fact were not enough to justify keeping him on the bench.
Camp’s efforts “cannot adequately repair the damage caused to public confidence through his conduct of the Wagar trial,” they wrote in their report.
“We conclude that Justice Camp’s conduct in the Wagar trial was so manifestly and profoundly destructive of the concept of the impartiality, integrity and independence of the judicial role that public confidence is sufficiently undermined to render the judge incapable of executing the judicial office.”