Aboriginal and women's groups say former judge David Ramsay's attacks on young aboriginal women highlight the big problem of child sex abuse.

Ramsay was sentenced Tuesday to seven years in jail for sexually assaulting four teenaged prostitutes – one as young as 12 years old.

Ramsay had admitted he had picked up the young aboriginal women on the streets of Prince George and taken them into the woods where he paid for sex.

Several times the encounters turned violent. On one occasion he smashed a 16-year-old's head into the dashboard, and then sexually assaulted her when she tried to get him to use a condom.

The four victims were all addicted to drugs and worked as prostitutes in Prince George. And three of them had appeared in Ramsay's courtroom before and after the assaults.

Calling Ramsay's actions "utterly reprehensible," B.C. Supreme Court Associate Chief Justice Patrick Dohm handed down the seven-year sentence – which is two years longer than the Crown was asking for.

But the president of the Native Women's Association, Terry Brown, says it still wasn't enough.

"We need to call this case what it is. It's about raping babies. The youngest girl was 12 years old. She was a child.

"This doesn't give out a strong enough message. and it's not the end of it," says Brown. "We need to press for an inquiry."

Clare Johnson, who speaks for several Prince George groups that work with abused women and teens, says paying teenage girls for sex is the same as child abuse.

"This is a crime that continues to impact our community on multiple levels.

"It is only due to the public profile and status of this predatory sex offender that this case has garnered this amount of attention," she says.

Long-time First Nations leader Bill Wilson says the sentence – and the entire ordeal – are a testament to the strength of the four victims.

"The courage of those women to come forward in the face of intimidation, breach of trust authority and public rebuke is the real story here," he says.

Wilson says he hopes the case will serve as an example of what can happen when aboriginal women stand up and demand justice.

Sentence triggers legal debate

Retired Provincial Court judge Wallace Craig is questioning why Ramsay received only half the maximum penalty allowed for his crimes.

Craig says this case cries out for the maximum penalty of 14 years in prison. And he says he was astounded to hear the Crown was seeking only a five-year prison term.

"It puts a judge in a difficult position, and he put Judge Dohm in the position where he had to give some explanation of why he was going beyond the Crown's range," he says.

But a past president of the Canadian Bar Association says the seven-year sentence is fair.

Simon Potter says Dohm "did his job well in balancing a number of factors he must keep in mind.

"He obviously took into account the enormous amount of humiliation that the accused had already suffered and he came out with a sentence that clearly expresses society's intolerance, total intolerance," he says.

Potter says the maximum penalty of 14 years is the kind of sentence generally reserved for murderers.