A judge confronts his fear of AIDS

This is an example of why judges and people who run that broken legal system need to experience it and get out of their bubble when they sentence violent criminals, pedophiles etc. To grasp it all and realize the damage that was created by these criminals who commit rape, child abuse, robbery, pedophile, child porn etc,by throwing them away in jail for a year or 2 is nothing compared to what victims go through for their entire life. They give more jail time for white collar crime than rape or child abuse..society is screwed up.

A judge confronts his fear of AIDS

Jon-Jo Douglas once made witness don mask

An Ontario judge so misinformed about how AIDS is spread that he ordered an HIV-positive witness to be masked in his courtroom has since spent a day at Casey House hospice, where he shook hands with patients.

The unusual educational visit – and a later face-to-face discussion with his chief justice – have ended the disciplinary proceedings against Justice Jon-Jo Douglas.

“He knew that we were not his greatest friends when he first came here, so I thought that it took courage for him to come,” said Dr. Ann Stewart, medical director at the Toronto hospice for people with HIV/AIDS, who had publicly criticized Douglas after his conduct came to light last year.

“He asked a lot of questions. He’s clearly learned a great deal since a year ago,” said Stewart, noting Douglas – once so seemingly phobic he ordered documents handled by the witness to be bagged – offered a very “firm” handshake to one patient in particular.

“The folks who met him and spoke with him felt very positive about it,” she said, noting Douglas explained during his visit that before entering the legal profession, he’d worked as a hospital orderly and “knew a little about infection control.”

It was that experience, he said, that prompted him to ask for rubber gloves for his court staff during the November 2007 trial of a man accused of sexually assaulting a fellow inmate at a provincial jail. The victim was HIV-positive.

Douglas, a judge of the Ontario Court of Justice in Barrie, went to Casey House last summer following a complaint to the Ontario Judicial Council by the province’s Criminal Lawyers Association, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and the HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic in downtown Toronto.

News of his visit wasn’t made public. It was mentioned in a confidential letter judicial council registrar Marilyn King sent Tuesday to a complainant. The Star obtained a copy. The groups alleged Douglas’s conduct was an example of “shockingly discriminatory thinking” and suggested Douglas lacked the temperament required of a judge.

At one point, Douglas, a former Toronto prosecutor, had the case moved to a bigger courtroom to create more distance between himself and the witness.

Although the Crown attorney insisted extreme measures were unnecessary, Douglas claimed – wrongly – that HIV will live in a dried state for years.

That serves to illustrate that despite decades of public education, there’s still an “HIV panic out there in the world,” said Richard Elliott, the HIV/AIDS legal network’s executive director.

While the Judicial Council can order public inquiries into complaints against judges and remove them from the bench, that penalty would be out of line for the behaviour at issue in this case, said Paul Cavalluzzo, a Toronto lawyer experienced in judicial disciplinary hearings. Exercising an option available under Ontario’s Courts of Justice Act, the council decided against a public inquiry, sending the case to Chief Justice Anne-Marie Bonkalo for what was described in the letter as a “discussion” with Douglas. Douglas “now fully understands the concerns with his conduct” and “has learned from the experience,” King’s letter said.

“The Chief Justice advised that Justice Douglas has expressed his apologies for his conduct, with sincere regret for any harm his behaviour may have caused to the witness in the proceeding or to others with HIV/AIDS, and for any impacts that his behaviour may have had upon the public.”

While Bonkalo told the council ignorance about HIV/AIDS isn’t a systemic problem among her court’s judges, she’s asked her educational committee to consider a session on HIV/AIDS in future programs on “pandemic management in the courtroom.”

Elliott and Stewart called it a step in the right direction.

Toronto Star

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