An Ottawa judge who created a fake Match.com profile to research the victim of an alleged sexual assault has been reprimanded.
In December 2013, Superior Court Justice Timothy Ray acquitted a male defendant who was accused of sexually assaulting a female complainant.
After delivering the verdict, Justice Ray passed a note to Ottawa Police Detective Erin Lehman, inviting her into his chambers to discuss the case.
He asked Lehman whether the defence had checked the woman’s Match.com profile, saying he had created a fake profile as a 25-year-old gay man the night before, to research the alleged victim.
In an affidavit, Lehman said: “He then told me that if defence had done the same thing, she would have been able to ‘hang’ the victim with all of the information available [on her dating profile].”
And now, after reviewing the situation, the Ontario Court of Appeal said the judge violated legal principles, and the information “taints the verdicts of acquittal.”
The Court of Appeal have therefore ordered a retrial of the case.
The court said: “The conduct of the trial judge while his decision was under reserve as well as his statements to the officer about that conduct were improper and created a reasonable apprehension of bias.”
The case concerned an alleged domestic sexual assault, threatening with a knife and forcible confinement.
Ray found the accused not guilty of these three charges.
In his defence, the judge said he based his verdict solely on the evidence presented, and checked the online dating site “out of curiosity”, because it had been used as evidence.
In response, the Court of Appeal said: “He conducted his own research into a website that had been the subject of evidence at trial while his decision was under reserve – contrary to the basic principle that judges and jurors must make their judicial decisions based only on the evidence presented in court on the record.”