Ontario Judge Makes Witness Wear HIV Mask
An Ontario judge is facing a misconduct investigation after he forced a sexual assault victim to wear a mask, fearing that he’d contract AIDS without it.
The witness, who is HIV-positive and has Hepatitis C, was not permitted to testify until Justice Jon-Jo Douglas was satisfied that the courtroom’s “saftey and integrity” was protected. This included ordering all court staff to wear rubber gloves and placing all documents handled by the witness into plastic bags.
Quotes from the courtroom transcript reveal Judge Douglas’ astonishing ignorance:
I am frankly shocked that in this day and age we were not advised [about the witness’ HIV status]. The HIV virus will live in a dried state for year after year after year and only needs moisture to reactivate itself.
I mean, [the witness] speaks within two feet of me with two serious infectious diseases. Either you mask your witness and/or move us to another courtroom or we do not proceed.
Bluma Brenner, an assistant professor at McGill’s AIDS clinic, called the judge’s claims about dried HIV re-activation “outlandish.” The witness’ lawyer also took offense, adding that a mask was not required in the community and could interfere with the court reporter.
Ontario’s Criminal Lawyers Association, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, and the HIV and AIDS Legal Clinic in Ontario have all lodged formal complaints against the judge. The Crown has also appealed to have the judge removed from the case over apparent bias.
As for Judge Douglas’ wishes to ensure the safety and integrity of the courtroom, I can offer a little advice: Sanding down sharp corners and ensuring non-excessive microphone volume levels will make any courtroom a safer place to work. Restoring integrity, on the other hand…
- Judge’s ignorance of AIDS draws fire [Toronto Star]