Judge asks woman, "Couldn't you just keep your legs together?"

A complaint has been filed against a Canadian federal court justice for comments he made during a sexual assault trial.

“Couldn’t you just keep your legs together?”

“Why didn’t you just sink your bottom down into the basin so he couldn’t penetrate you?”

These are real words uttered by a real judge during a real sexual assault trial in Canada in 2014, according to a complaint filed by four female law professors with the Canadian Judicial Council this month.

The professors take issue with Federal Court Justice Robin Camp’s comments during the trial of a Calgary man accused of sexually assaulting a 19-year-old woman atop a bathroom sink during a house party. Camp, according to the complaint, asked the woman “why she allowed sex to happen if she didn’t want it” and said when she asked the accused if he had a condom, the “inescapable conclusion [was that] if you have one, I’m happy to have sex with you.” (The accused, Alexander Scott Wagar, was acquitted; a new trial was ordered last month.)

Camp showed “disregard, if not disdain” for Canada’s rape shield laws, say the professors. The laws are meant to protect against stereotypes around sexual assault and dissuade courts from relying too heavily on a complainant’s sexual history when ruling. But there is still a struggle to ensure judges and juries abide by those laws.

Camp has since publicly apologized, saying he is sorry for causing “deep and significant pain” to the complainant and to any and all women he may have dissuaded from reporting their own sexual assaults.

The Judicial Council, chaired by Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, could dismiss the complaint against Camp, order the judge undergo counselling, strike a review panel or call for the judge’s removal from the bench.

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