WINNIPEG — Manitoba justice officials have filed an appeal of a judge’s controversial decision to keep a convicted rapist out of jail while commenting on the actions and attire of the victim.
Documents were filed Wednesday seeking to overturn last month’s ruling by Queen’s Bench Justice Robert Dewar. No date for a hearing has been set.
At a sentencing hearing Feb. 18, Dewar suggested a victim's attire and flirtatious behaviour were partly to blame for the attack, which involved forced intercourse. The judge called the attacker, Kenneth Rhodes, a "clumsy Don Juan" and noted the victim wore a tube top, high heels and plenty of makeup. He gave Rhodes a conditional sentence - no jail time -- of two years, rejecting a Crown suggestion of at least three years behind bars.
The Crown is now alleging that Dewar erred in law by reducing the "moral culpability" of Rhodes based on his views of the victim.
The judge's remarks unleashed a firestorm of protest when they came to light in a Free Press story. Politicians of all stripes joined student and feminist groups and those who work with sexual assault victims in decrying the comments. Many said they feared Dewar’s remarks would deter other victims from coming forward in the future.
The Canadian Judicial Council, which has authority over more than 1,100 federally appointed judges, has received "several" complaints about Dewar’s handling of the case and has launched an investigation. In the meantime, Dewar has agreed not to preside over any cases "of a sexual nature", according to Chief Justice Glenn Joyal.
He was also replaced earlier this month on a manslaughter jury trial just days before it began.
More than 100 women and men held a noisy protest outside the downtown Law Courts building one week after the sentencing. They chanted "yes means yes and no means no," and waved signs sporting an array of messages including, "Clumsy, ignorant judge," and 'FYI, Dewar, this is the 21st century." Many who attended the demonstration called on the judge to apologize for his remarks and to resign.