HALIFAX — A popular Canadian rapper says he can't understand why a prominent lawyers' group is condemning his angry response to a controversial sexual-assault sentencing.
Classified — whose real name is Luke Boyd — took to Facebook earlier this month asking supporters to tell a judge they were unhappy with a five-year sentence handed to a man who sexually assaulted an 11-year-old Newfoundland girl.
On Tuesday, the Newfoundland and Labrador branch of the Canadian Bar Association said the rapper's "personal attack'' on the judge "is inappropriate and threatens judicial independence,'' although it didn't identify Classified by name.
"Canadians enjoy an open and transparent judicial system. All Canadians have a right to know what is happening in the courts, how justice is administered, and to be critical of court decisions. However, personal attacks on judges threaten their independence and ability to deliver justice effectively,'' it said in a statement.
Classified asked why the bar association criticized him, rather than questioning how the legal system treats rape victims. (Photo: Reuters)
In a response posted on Facebook Thursday, Classified said asking people to email a judge "doesn't seem like much of an attack compared to what that little girl went through."
And he asked why the bar association criticized him, rather than questioning how the legal system treats rape victims.
"I received over 500 emails from people. People I don't know. That told me what they have went through, whether it was rape, being molested as a child and put through some horrible things and how all of their accusers got off with next to nothing,'' Classified, who lives in Enfield, N.S., said in his Facebook post.
"Everytime I read one of their stories it hits me again and blows my mind that the people in proper power and that understand the system a lot better than myself (and have put me down for addressing it the wrong way) do nothing to change these laws so that the judge can sentence these messed up people a lot longer."
Classified performs during the Quebec Festival D'ete on July 5, 2013 in Quebec City. (Photo: Getty Images)
Justice William Goodridge had sentenced Christopher Butt to five years in prison followed by three years' probation following Butt's guilty plea to sexual assault and uttering threats. The sentence — the minimum for the offence — was jointly recommended by the Crown and defence.
Classified wasn't the only critic. Jenny Wright, executive director of the St. John's Status of Women Council, said it reinforces what she calls a widespread "rape culture.'' She said people need to advocate for change by speaking to their justice ministers, to the prime minister and to police, and by working with women's groups.
St. John's lawyer Mike King, of the Canadian Bar Association, told VOCM radio this week that judges can't make decisions based on their own feelings, but must follow the law and give deference to the sentence suggested by the lawyers.
The judge had said he accepted the joint submission for the minimum punishment in part because of other factors, including doubt about the girl's ability to testify at trial, which created uncertainty about a conviction.
Mitigating factors led to minimum punishment: judge
The 41-year-old man lured the young girl, who was 11 years old at the time, to his home and repeatedly sexually assaulted her during the summer of 2014. Butt was a neighbour and a family friend.
Goodridge said Butt used threats and physical force to ensure co-operation, including threatening to burn down her family's house and pulling her hair. The victim was not able to walk properly for days afterward.
The decision said mitigating sentencing factors were Butt's lack of a criminal record, the fact that he pleaded guilty and apologized for the crimes, his participation in rehabilitation programs and his commitment to continued counselling.
It also notes Butt was himself a victim of sexual assault during his childhood and that he suffers from bipolar disorder.
"This does not justify or excuse his criminal acts, but it does help in understanding possible contributing forces that are at play,'' it said.