Women’s groups condemn judge’s comments in sexual assault case

A coalition of women’s groups in the Yukon is condemning a judge’s comments in a sexual assault case.

A coalition of women’s groups in the Yukon is condemning a judge’s comments in a sexual assault case.

The reaction comes days after the News reported comments judge Donald Luther made about the appearance and age of a young woman, using it to justify a sexual assault conviction.

“The issue in this case is not interest, the issue is consent,” said the coalition, representing the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre, Les EssentiElles and the Yukon Status of Women Council, in a statement Jan. 31.

“The victim was intoxicated and unconscious at the time of the assault, and therefore unable to give consent.”

The comment stems from the case of Jackie Kodwat, who was convicted in October 2016 of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old woman.

“It is inconceivable that an attractive 17-year-old girl would consent to kiss for 20 to 25 minutes and then have unprotected sexual intercourse with the accused who meant nothing to her and whom she did not remember — and furthermore who was 28 years her senior,” Luther said in his decision.

It’s the second time Luther has been called out for questionable comments pertaining to a sexual assault case.

In July 2016, he commented on the attitude of a young man, who had been sexually assaulted at a cadet training facility in Whitehorse.

A publication ban prohibits disclosing the identity of the defendant in that case.

The defendant convinced the victim to play the game “awkward,” in which the goal is to make the other say “awkward.” The defendant touched the victim’s groin and genitals, which caused the victim to say “awkward” and ask the defendant to stop.

The defendant kept going until he performed oral sex on the victim — without consent — which the judge determined to be when the sexual assault occurred.

“(The victim) was foolish to have allowed the defendant to persuade him to play the game Awkward,” Luther wrote.

“Furthermore, (the victim) was foolish to have allowed (the defendant) to have touched his penis inside his clothing.”

The same coalition of women’s groups criticized Luther at the time for the wording of his decision, which blamed the victim.

His most recent comment prompted Kodwat’s lawyer to ask the Yukon Court of Appeal to acquit his client.

The coalition of women’s groups told the News they had no immediate plans to file a complaint against Luther.

Such complaints would be filed to the Yukon Judicial Council, which reviews allegations of misconduct against territorial judges and justices of the peace.

The council rarely receives complaints. It received one in 2014, which is currently being investigated, and one in 2015 that was dismissed.

The coalition also said it took issue with Kodwat’s lawyer’s statements, without specifying what statements it was referring to.

Contact Pierre Chauvin at pierre.chauvin@yukon-news.com

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