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Canada: Former judge admits sex attacks on teens

Publish Date: 04 May 2004

By: Jane Armstrong with a report from CTV

Former B.C. judge admits to sex assaults against 4 teen girls

For more than two decades, David Ramsay was a respected jurist in the rough-and-rumble northern B.C. city of Prince George. Yesterday, the former provincial judge became a defendant, admitting to a stream of disturbing sex charges against teenage girls.

With his wife and victims looking on, the 61-year-old retired judge stunned a crowded courtroom by pleading guilty to three counts of buying sex from minors, one count of sexual assault causing bodily harm and one count of breach of trust relating to the duties of his office.

The surprise guilty plea was made just minutes into what was supposed to have been a three-week trial. Five other charges against Mr. Ramsay were stayed.

The four victims are aboriginal women. At the time of the assaults, they were all under 18 and one was 12.

Reading from an agreed statement of facts, special prosecutor Dennis Murray confirmed what some prostitutes in Prince George had been saying for years: that the judge was also a john.

In one attack, he picked up a 16-year-old prostitute, drove outside town where the two agreed he pay $150 for sex. But he flew into a rage when she asked him to use a condom, smashing her head on the dash of his car until she bled and chasing after her when she tried to escape. He caught up to her on the highway and sexually assaulted her before she ran away. The girl later recognized him in the courthouse when she was appearing as a witness in another case.

In other instances, he slapped the girls, chased them, simulated rough sex or left them naked on the highway. He also called them names and threatened one girl with death.

Calling the crimes "callous" and "abhorrent," Mr. Murray said Mr. Ramsay abused his position of trust and authority, believing he was "untouchable."

Mr. Murray said the girls were young and vulnerable, suffering the attendant problems that come with life on the street. They used drugs and had been abused by others, and some were suicidal.

Mr. Murray said the judge was aware of the damage he was inflicting on the girls, yet he regarded them as "unworthy."

Mr. Ramsay is to be sentenced on June 1 and Mr. Murray is seeking a jail sentence of five years. The crimes date to 1992, the year after Mr. Ramsay was appointed to the bench.

In court, the victims hugged one another and cried. All the girls had at one time appeared in Mr. Ramsay's court. At the time of the attacks, they were 12, 14, 15, and 16.

The former judge began his career as a legal-aid lawyer in the 1970s before moving on to practise at various firms. As a judge, he had a reputation as fair and hard-working in this city of 75,000.

Harry Pierre, tribal council chief of the Carrier Sekani First Nation near Prince George, said the crimes were unconscionable, leaving the women with crippling, life-long problems.

"The young ladies -- their lives have been wrecked," he said.

Mr. Pierre said the judge's actions have the ring of crimes committed in a "corrupt, Third World country" -- not Canada. "A judge is supposed to uphold the law," he said. "You think you're safe and sound."

Mr. Pierre said he would like to see a review of all Mr. Ramsay's cases that involved aboriginal people.

The case against Mr. Ramsay made headlines across the province last year when nine sex charges were announced, alleging offences against four girls.

Rumours about Mr. Ramsay first swirled in 1999 when RCMP received a complaint about him. In the summer of 2002, he was removed from duty after B.C. Chief Judge Carol Baird learned there was a criminal investigation. He resigned abruptly in October of 2002, the day a special prosecutor was appointed to investigate accusations that he sexually exploited teenage girls between 1992 and 2001.

Early on, there were grumblings that the justice system was treating the ex-judge with kid gloves. At his first court hearing last spring, he was permitted to enter the courtroom through a side door, bypassing the public.

© 2004 Bell Globemedia Publishing Inc