A Canadian judge is fighting to keep his job as he awaits a hearing about shockingly insensitive comments he made to a rape victim in his courtroom in 2014.
Judge Robin Camp presided over a sexual assault trial in which a 19-year-old homeless woman accused Calgary resident Alexander Scott of raping her while at a house party. During the proceedings, Camp repeatedly peppered the victim with wildly accusatory questions, such as "why couldn’t you just keep your knees together?" and "why didn’t you just sink your bottom down into the basin [of the sink where the attack took place] so he couldn’t penetrate you?"
Camp ultimately found Scott not guilty.
An Alberta court of appeals, bombarded with complaints from the public, subsequently overturned the ruling, and ordered a new trial, citing Camp's conduct on the bench as having contributed to their decision to reassess the case. Appeals court justice Brian O’Ferrall wrote:
We are satisfied that the trial judge’s comments throughout the proceedings and in his reasons gave rise to doubts about the trial judge’s understanding of the law governing sexual assaults and in particular, the meaning of consent and restrictions on evidence of the complainant’s sexual activity imposed by (a section of the Criminal Code).
Now Camp's fate as a jurist lies in the hands of a five-person panel on the Canadian Judicial Council, made up of both judges and lawyers. This coming September they will meet to decide whether Camp should remain on the bench.
In a document the Calgary Herald calls a "notice of response" released ahead of September's hearing, Camp is described as believing he can "positively contribute as a member of the judiciary and will strive to keep improving and learning."
Since the Scott trial, Camp has apologized for the remarks, saying, "my sincere apology goes out, in the first place, to the young woman who was the complainant in the matter." He added that he is "deeply troubled" by the prospect of his comments hurting those who might be hesitant to speak out about abuse. He has also reportedly undergone counseling and training with legal and psychological experts following the incident—something, the Herald says, he claims has given him "deeper understanding into the experiences of the trauma" faced by those who have been victim of a sexual assault.
Camp will reportedly make another public apology during the upcoming public hearing.
While different in many respects (among them: nationality) there is one significant parallel that can be drawn between Camp and Judge Aaron Persky, who presided over the trial of Stanford University rapist Brock Turner, sentencing him to just six months in jail for sexually assaulting a woman behind a dumpster. Both cases highlight how much power judges have to shape the tone and tenor of how rape is addressed in the courtroom—and how backlash can affect that power. Like Camp, Persky has been publicly excoriated and has faced multiple recall attempts.
Judge Camp is reportedly currently barred from hearing new cases. The notice given to the CJC describes Camp as understanding that "some of his prior thinking was infected with stereotypical beliefs and discredited myths."
The hearing is scheduled to begin September 6th, and will last seven days.