A judge who asked a complainant in a rape trial why she couldn’t just keep her knees together has resigned, hours after the disciplinary body for Canadian judges recommended that he be removed from the bench.
In a brief statement on Thursday, federal court justice Robin Camp submitted his resignation over his behaviour while presiding over a 2014 trial into allegations of sexual assault. “I would like to express my sincere apology to everyone who was hurt by my comments,” he added.
The Calgary trial made headlines around the world after it emerged that Camp had repeatedly asked the 19-year-old complainant why she had not done more to prevent the alleged rape. “Why couldn’t you just keep your knees together?” Camp asked her. Later he told her that “sex and pain sometimes go together”.
Camp’s resignation came shortly after after the Canadian Judicial Council announced it had wrapped up its 15-month review into the judge’s conduct. The judicial watchdog concluded that Camp had relied on discredited myths, stereotypes about women and victim-blaming during the trial and noted in its report that Camp had at times addressed the complainant – a young indigenous woman who was homeless at the time of the alleged assault – in a manner that was “condescending, humiliating and disrespectful”.
Throughout the trial, Camp repeatedly referred to the complainant as “the accused”. After she told the court that the alleged assault took place in a bathroom sink, Camp asked her why she hadn’t sunk her “bottom down into the basin so he couldn’t penetrate you”.
Camp went on to acquit the man accused in the case. The Alberta court of appeal later ordered a new trial in which the 29-year-old accused was subsequently acquitted.
In September, an inquiry began looking into whether Camp – a provincial judge who had been recently promoted to the federal court – should be removed from the bench.
The inquiry heard a remorseful Camp apologise for his remarks. “I was not the good judge I thought I was,” said the 64-year-old. Camp, who was born in South Africa and moved to Calgary in 1998, said he had not understood the changes made to Canadian laws aimed at sheltering sexual assault complainants from discriminatory attitudes.
He went to great lengths to demonstrate to the panel that he should keep his job, citing a series of one-on-one counselling and education sessions he had undertaken with feminist scholars to educate himself on sensitivity and sexual assault laws.
The inquiry also heard from the female complainant, who said Camp’s remarks had left her fending off suicidal thoughts. “What did he get from asking that?” she asked. “He made me hate myself and he made me feel like I should have done something … that I was some kind of slut.”
On Thursday, 19 of the 23 judges who make up the Canadian Judicial Council recommended that the country’s justice minister remove Camp from the bench. “He showed obvious disdain for some of the characteristics of the regime enacted by parliament in respect of sexual assault issues,” the council noted in its report.
The judge’s conduct, it added, “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”.
Since its creation in 1971, the judicial watchdog has only recommended the removal of two other judges from the bench. Both resigned before being ousted.
Recent days have seen mounting calls for another judge to be removed from the bench – this time a provincial court judge in the east coast province of Nova Scotia – after he told a courtroom that “clearly, a drunk can consent”, before acquitting a taxi driver accused of sexually assaulting a female passenger who was found half-naked and unconscious in his cab.