The right training for being a judge

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The now-infamous 2014 case of the Alberta judge who asked a female sexual assault complainant why she didn’t keep her “knees together” during an alleged attack highlights the need for all judges to have the highest possible level of training when it comes to hearing such cases.

And although Judge Robin Camp is no longer sitting on the bench after he resigned following an inquiry by the Canadian Judicial Council, Albertans are right to ask whether all sitting Alberta judges are adequately equipped to oversee sex assault trials.

Such cases require judges, and lawyers for that matter, to treat all parties with the utmost respect. Failure to do so jeopardizes the public’s faith in the justice system itself.

In an effort to ensure there are no more cases like that seen with Judge Camp, the Opposition Wildrose Party has put forward a motion that would require sexual assault training for anyone seeking to be appointed as a judge.

It would also require that the Law Society of Alberta and the Provincial Court Judges’ Association ensure all lawyers and judges involved with victims of sexual offences are educated not only on the current state of the law but also regarding myths and stereotypes associated with sexual offence complainants.

“Albertans want to know that when a sexual assault victim brings their case to authorities, that it will be handled with care and respect,” said Wildrose Leader Brian Jean.

“The last thing we want is for a sexual assault case to go to trial, only to see proceedings overseen by someone without a full understanding of the law. It’s absolutely unacceptable.”

Alberta needs a justice system that treats everyone fairly and with respect. Anything less creates a wholly unacceptable situation where victims of crime could end up losing faith in the system itself.

Although the government is unlikely to move forward with this Opposition motion, MLAs and other stakeholders should be encouraged to work together to ensure that the province’s justice system is something all Albertans can be proud of.

Dan Singleton is the Mountain View Gazette editor.

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Dan Singleton

Dan Singleton is the editor of the Mountain View Gazette who joined the newspaper in 1994. He covers news, municipal politics and community events in Mountain View County. He is also a longtime columnist for other publications of Mountain View Publishing.