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2 more Alberta sex assault cases under review amid ‘knees together’ controversy

2 more Alberta sex assault cases under review amid ‘knees together’ controversy
Canada
Federal Court Justice Robin Camp, right, and wife Maryann Camp arrive at a Canadian Judical Council inquiry in Calgary, Alberta on Monday, Sept. 12, 2016.

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Reviews are underway into how two Alberta provincial judges handled recent sexual assault cases but their conduct is being dissected behind closed doors.

One case centres on Justice Pat McIlhargey’s June 2015 acquittal of a 16-year-old boy accused of raping a 13-year-old girl in a park. Last month, in ordering a new trial, a Court of Queen’s Bench judge said McIlhargey allowed “unexplained myths and stereotypes to enter his assessment of the complainant’s credibility.”

In his decision, McIlhargey said the complainant didn’t scream, run for help, confide in friends or family or show any change in her demeanour.

In the second case, Judge Michael Savaryn acquitted a 15-year-old boy of allegations that he grabbed the breasts and buttocks of a girl, also 15, in a high school hallway and tried to kiss her. In his decision, Savaryn said the complainant did not do enough to communicate that the boy’s advances made her uncomfortable.

In July, the acquittal was overturned by a higher court judge. The boy was convicted and awaits sentencing.

Ron Hewitt, executive director of the Provincial Court of Alberta, said Thursday that Chief Judge Terrence Matchett is reviewing how the judges handled the cases, but he declined to elaborate.

The reviews come after a high-profile disciplinary hearing for Robin Camp , a former Alberta provincial court judge, who asked a sex assault complainant why she didn’t keep her knees together. Camp also referred to the woman as “the accused” during the trial, a mistake he repeated at the Canadian Judicial Council hearing before quickly correcting himself.

Though Camp was a provincial judge when he acquitted the man, he has since been appointed to the federal bench, which means he was subject to a disciplinary inquiry.

WATCH BELOW: Retired Justice weighs in on Alberta Justice Robin Camp hearing

A five-member panel convened by the council held five days of public hearings at a downtown Calgary hotel, and heard from the complainant, witnesses and Camp. The panel is to report to the council, which will then make a recommendation to the federal justice minister as to whether Camp is fit to keep his job.

Emma Cunliffe, a University of British Columbia law professor, said she’d like to see more openness at the provincial court level.

“My inclination is that the best system is one which begins with very thorough training and then, if mistakes occur, those mistakes are taken seriously and addressed in a way that is public and transparent,” she said.

“Things only come to light because a case happens to find its way into the media or because the Court of Appeal happens to make a particularly critical comment.”
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