Complaints dismissed against N.S. judge who said 'Clearly, a drunk can consent'

An independent judicial review committee has dismissed complaints against a Nova Scotia judge who came under fire for saying in a sexual assault case that drunks can consent.

The Nova Scotia Judicial Council received hundreds of complaints about provincial court Judge Gregory Lenehan, most focusing on his comments during the trial of a Halifax taxi driver charged with sexually assaulting an intoxicated female passenger.

Lenehan's acquittal in the case, since overturned by the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal, sparked public outrage when he concluded: "Clearly, a drunk can consent."

A number of complainants alleged Lenehan's comments were part of a troubling track record revealing a gender bias, such as when he asked a breastfeeding mother to leave his courtroom, and accused him of using misogynistic reasoning and reinforcing "rape culture" and "social biases."

In a decision released Wednesday, the review committee says it found no evidence of impermissible reasoning or bias.

The committee says its role was not to determine whether he erred in law but rather whether he was guilty of judicial misconduct, which carries a high threshold to protect the independence of the judiciary.