'Unacceptable': Complaint filed over judge's words to teen sexual assault victim
Published Wednesday, October 25, 2017 12:32PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, October 25, 2017 6:39PM EDT
Quebec's justice minister has filed a complaint against a judge in a sexual assault case whose comments, she said, are “unacceptable.”
Justice Jean-Paul Braun suggested a 17-year-old girl who was kissed and groped by a taxi driver was probably “a bit flattered” by the gesture, also commented on her appearance.
The incident took place in the summer of 2015 when, according to testimony reported in the Journal de Montreal, the 17-year-old girl got into the taxi and the driver made sexual advances.
When the driver asked for her phone number, the teen said she gave it to him fearing he would lock the taxi doors.
The court heard how the driver forced himself on her, kissed her, licked her face, and grabbed body parts.
The taxi driver, a man named Carlo Figaro, was found guilty of sexual assault. He is appealing the verdict.
Braun openly wondered if kissing was even sexual, or whether consent was needed to kiss.
During the trial, the judge said that “trying to kiss someone could be an acceptable gesture,” adding that the victim was probably a little flattered by the advances because “it was perhaps the first time that someone was interested in her.”
Braun said “she's a little heavy but the she has a pretty face, huh?”
Justice Minister Stephanie Vallée said she wants Quebec's magistrates’ council to investigate the judge.
Helene David, the minister for the status of women, commented on the matter, saying it’s certainly a time for a change in mentality.
“My colleague Stephanie Vallée complained to the magistrates’ council of Quebec so she did something and she said that this is unacceptable. Do they need more training? Do they need more sensitivity? I don’t know. This is their problem but they have to solve that kind of problem and to change the mentality. It’s very important,” she said.
PQ leader Jean-Francois Lisée said the matter “very serious,” adding “we expect judges to be wise.”
Parti Quebecois justice critic Veronique Hivon called the incident “revolting,” saying “victims need to have trust in the justice system.”
Hivon later tweeted that she approved of Vallee filing a complaint with the magistrates’ council.
Quebec Solidaire also issued a statement. MNA Manon Massé wrote, “a rape culture is implanted in different spheres of Quebec society, and this is another example of a person in authority making inappropriate remarks toward women.”
The Court of Quebec's Chief Justice Lucie Rondeau said the court will not comment on the matter, adding that "it is up to the Conseil de la magistrature du Quebec to decide whether an ethical fault has been committed."
This is not the first time Braun has made controversial comments.
He made headlines in 2013 when a phone technician assaulted a young woman.
The judge said "it's not the crime of the century."
Retired judge Nicole Gibeault said Braun's comments do not help the justice system.
"I ask all the alleged victims, don't think that it is like that. We do have empathy up to the last minute when we issue a judgment," said Gibeault.
Sarah Gibson of Women Aware, a group that helps victims of sexual assault, was concerned that future victims would avoid seeking justice because of Braun's remarks.
"It takes a lot for a victim to want to come forward initially and the fact that she made it so far to bring it to police, and then have a case brought to court, and then have a judge tell her she should be flattered is just not acceptable. It's just not okay," said Gibson.