13:37, October 27 93 0 theguardian.com

2017-10-27 13:37:03
Canada judge says sexual assault victim may have been 'flattered' by the incident

A judge in the Canadian province of Quebec has come under fire after remarking in court that a 17-year-old who said she was sexual assaulted was a “little overweight but has a pretty face” and that she may have been a “bit flattered” by the attention.

The comments, which came to light this week, were made by Judge Jean-Paul Braun in May as he heard allegations of sexual assault against a taxi driver, Carlo Figaro.

During the trial – in which the court heard that Figaro forcefully tried to kiss the girl, licking her face and groping her before she managed to get out of the cab – Braun brought up the girl’s physical appearance.

“She’s a young girl, 17. Maybe she’s a little overweight but she has a pretty face, no?” the judge said, according to a recording published by the Journal de Montréal.

Citing the girl’s strict religious upbringing, the judge suggested that she might have welcomed the advances of the 49-year-old, who he said “looks good and doesn’t seem his age”.

He continued: “She was a bit flattered … Maybe it was the first time he showed interest in her.”

The judge also suggested that trying to kiss someone may be acceptable but that a different level of consent would be needed for anything more. “A man is interested in her, he tries to kiss her. Surely the same consent isn’t required to try to kiss someone as for – as we say – putting one’s hand in the basket,” Braun asked, using a French expression for grabbing someone’s rear end.

Braun eventually found Figaro guilty of sexual assault. He dismissed Figaro’s claims that he had not noticed the 17-year-old before, citing the fact that the accused regularly stopped in at the coffee shop where she worked. In his ruling, the judge said he found this hard to believe, “taking into consideration the [victim’s] figure, which is quite voluptuous; the court specifies that she is a pretty young girl.”

Figaro has launched an appeal of the verdict.

On Wednesday, Quebec’s justice minister, Stephanie Vallée, described the judge’s remarks as “unacceptable,” adding that she would file a complaint with province’s judicial council.

Neither the judge or the judicial council – which will review complaints before determining whether an investigation is warranted – would comment.

The Journal de Montréal noted that Braun had come under scrutiny once before, after telling a 19-year-old who said she had had her breasts grabbed by a telecom technician that it wasn’t the “crime of the century”.

His comments come amid a Canada-wide conversation on how the justice system deals with sexual assault complaints. Earlier this year, Robin Camp, the Calgary judge who made headlines around the world after asking a complainant in a rape trial why she couldn’t just keep her knees together, resigned, hours after the federal disciplinary body recommended that he be removed from the bench.

His resignation came as calls were mounting for the removal of a Nova Scotia judge who told a courtroom “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.

The cases have prompted a movement towards increased training for judges; earlier this year Ontario made sexual assault training mandatory for new provincial judges while the country’s senate is currently mulling a legislation that seeks to make such training mandatory for judges across Canada.