No discipline for judge who called rapist ‘a clumsy Don Juan’

WINNIPEG — The Canadian Judicial Council has ruled no discipline is needed for a Manitoba judge who called a convicted rapist a “clumsy Don Juan” and who suggested the victim’s provocative clothing meant that “sex was in the air.”

WINNIPEG — The Canadian Judicial Council has ruled no discipline is needed for a Manitoba judge who called a convicted rapist a “clumsy Don Juan” and who suggested the victim’s provocative clothing meant that “sex was in the air.”

Justice Robert Dewar has agreed that “his poor choice of words negatively affected women who are victims of sexual assault,” the council said in its decision. Dewar has also said his language at the February sentencing of Kenneth Rhodes was “totally inappropriate” and has expressed his regret, the council said.

Dewar apologized directly to the victim “for the hurt she must have experienced from my comments.

“Some of the letters of complaint, from persons who have worked directly with past victims, have pointed out that some of my comments were also traumatic for them,” the council quoted Dewar as saying. “I very much regret that as well.”

During the sexual assault case, heard in the northern mining city of Thompson, Dewar noted that the victim wore a tube top with no bra underneath, high heels and makeup and that she went willingly with her attacker.

Although he convicted Rhodes of sexual assault, Dewar gave him a two-year conditional sentence to be served in the community. He suggested “sex was in the air” that night and called Rhodes a “clumsy Don Juan” who may have misunderstood that the woman didn’t want to have sex.

Dewar’s comments generated widespread public outrage. Many called for him to be removed from the bench and the judge agreed not to hear any further sex-related cases.

Norman Sabourin, the judicial council’s executive director, said it received several complaints that all concerned what they said was the judge’s gender bias.

One of the complaints was lodged by the Manitoba government, which said it worried Dewar’s remarks would deter sexual assault victims from coming forward for fear of “being blamed for the crimes against them.”

Sabourin said the council is convinced the comments were an “isolated incident” in the judge’s career.

“The judge himself has recognized that the language that he used during a case was inappropriate, that it showed insensitivity toward victims of sexual crime in particular and that it was obviously something that should never be repeated.”

Sabourin said Dewar has met with a gender equality expert.

“Justice Dewar is convinced that he can be a better judge, through serious, ongoing efforts at professional development. He is determined that this will remain a single, isolated incident.”

Manitoba Chief Justice Glenn Joyal acknowledged the council’s ruling and said Dewar will resume his normal duties.

Attorney General Andrew Swan was not available for comment. But spokeswoman Rachel Morgan said the government was pleased Dewar apologized “to the victim and all those offended by his words.”

“We are pleased the council agreed that Justice Dewar’s remarks showed a ’clear lack of sensitivity towards victims of sexual assault’ and that his conduct ’fell short of the high standard Canadians expect of all judges’,” she said in an emailed statement.