Judicial Council facing difficult decision about judge
The Canadian Judicial Council Committee has a challenging decision to make about an Alberta judge over comments he made to a sexual assault victim in a case that was before him in 2014, Toronto criminal lawyer Joseph Neuberger tells Zoomer Radio.
“This is a very difficult decision for the judicial council to conclude because I’m sure (Justice Robin) Camp has done a lot of good work as a judge,” he says. “But something like this is extremely serious and could well result in his removal from the bench because any litigant who comes before him, an accused or a witness could lose confidence that a case could be dealt without bias."
Neuberger, partner at Neuberger & Partners LLP, says there are many issues for the council to consider.
“How do we maintain the integrity of the system and the trust in it if this isn't addressed in a very significant way — that’s the difficulty,” he says.
“Destroying this man’s career after how many years on the bench is serious but the difficulty is the comments are so serious that it strikes to the heart of the fairness of the system."
Neuberger, who as a defence lawyer has handled hundreds of sexual assault cases, speaks generally on the matter after Justice Camp acquitted a man on sexual assault charges and suggested the victim keep her knees shut. The acquittal was appealed after his comments.
Neuberger says it is positive the public found out about the judge's comments so steps can be taken to ensure a message is sent that such comments aren’t tolerated.
“This is one of those stark examples where with this judge, regardless of sensitivity training, is very serious,” he says.
“Whether you are an accused, witness, complainant or victim … you must have confidence that the judge or jury you are coming before is unbiased and will fairly assess the evidence,” Neuberger says. “Nobody should be found guilty of an offence unless the evidence is proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Any individual must be protected from crimes such as sexual assault and whether they are dressed in a provocative manner, acts in a provocative manner or portrays themselves in a certain manner has absolutely nothing to do with it. It is not justifiable for a rape."
Neuberger says this case doesn’t signal a wider problem in the justice system and how sex-related cases are handled.
"The Canadian public can have a lot of confidence in the judicial system,” he says. “The judges who sit both in the Ontario Court of Justice and the provincial courts across Canada and the Superior Court generally do a very good and are sensitive to many of the issues in cases that are litigated before them," he says.
He describes the judge’s comments in this case as “reprehensible and completely inappropriate.”
“This isn’t something that is running rampant in the justice system,” he says. “This is one person, who unfortunately for whatever reason harboured these beliefs and made the comments,” he says.