What part of no don’t you understand?

Clayton Hunt
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A judge in Manitoba is the object of some controversy as he recently gave a convicted rapist a two-year conditional sentence despite the Crown’s recommendation that the defendant be sentenced to a three-year jail term, a typical sentence in similar cases.

Five years ago, Kenneth Rhodes had sex with a woman against her will. Mr. Rhodes pleaded not guilty as he said he thought the woman had consented to the activity.

On the night in question, the woman and a friend had gone to a bar for a night out. The two met up with Mr. Rhodes and his friend and later drove out to a lake.

Judge Robert Dewar, in his sentencing, said that because of the way the young woman was dressed, “sex was in the air,” and when the two young women left the bar in the company of the men there was an “heightened expectation” that sex would occur.

According to Judge Dewar, because of the “inviting circumstances,” the Rhodes case is a  “case of misread signals” and the woman has to accept some “moral blameworthiness” for the assault.

As such, Judge Dewar said, Mr. Rhodes does not need a jail sentence because the protection of society is not advanced one iota by putting him in prison.

So, Mr. Rhodes received a conditional sentence. He will be under strict curfew for the first year of his two-year sentence although he can work and attend medical appointments. His name will be placed in the National Sex Offender registry and he has to write a letter of apology to the victim.

Now, most Canadians would not argue or debate with a judge, but what will a letter of apology do in this case?

Does the victim really want to read such a letter? Is the letter going to erase the psychological scars she has and her feelings of mistrust of men in general and her fear now of being alone?

The victim has at least one physical scar from the incident, which backs up her story of rebuffing Mr. Rhodes at least three times before the incident happened.

What about Judge Dewar’s comment that “sex was in the air” and there were “inviting circumstances” in the case?

Can comments like that be used in many rape cases?

“Your Honour, my client was at a bar. The young woman was dressed very nicely, looked really good and yes, ‘sex was in the air.’”

“Your Honour, my client was at a New Year’s party. The young woman looked really good in that short dress and there were certainly ‘inviting circumstances.’”

Shouldn’t judges at least be careful in what they say in cases like the one with Mr. Rhodes?

The Canadian Judicial Council is reviewing the comments made by Judge Dewar and the victim’s lawyers may appeal the verdict.

The question here is, are judges beyond reproach or criticism?

While no case is totally easy to rule on, maybe this judge should have been more cautious in his views on the woman in question.

Most women want to look their best when they go to a bar. She got in a car with a man —does that mean she should have been forced to do something against her will?

Anyone with views on this editorial can respond by sending a viewpoint to editor@thecoaster.ca

Organizations: Canadian Judicial Council

Geographic location: Manitoba

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