The Deacon's Bench

He’s a judge in Canada — and he’s talking about how his faith intersects with his job, following a controversial sentencing in a high-profile case.

From the B.C. Catholic in Vancouver:

Ontario Superior Court Judge Alf Stong is not particularly bothered by the front-page scolding he got from a Toronto Star columnist at the end of the Elaine Campione murder trial last month.

Stong, a deacon for the archdiocese of Toronto, was rebuked for repeating an unproven allegation of spousal abuse and suggesting Campione’s two children could still be alive had her husband not abused her. The Star’s Rosie DiManno called Stong’s sentencing address “a breathtaking rearrangement of the facts as the court heard them.” She accused Stong of besmirching the name of Leo Campione, whom she called a victim of the crime.

Barrie, Ont., mother Elaine Campione murdered her two daughters — 19-month-old Sophia and three-year-old Serena — in 2006. She wanted to prevent the transfer of custody to Leo, her ex-husband and the father of the girls. A jury found her guilty, dismissing her defence that she was suffering from a mental illness and should not be held criminally responsible. At trial she claimed she had been abused by her husband.

In his sentencing address, Stong had called the case “undeniably and inordinately tragic.” He went on to talk about the forces which may have driven Elaine Campione to commit such an evil act.

“If Ms. Campione had not been so abused, so used and discarded as a person, her two daughters could still be alive,” Stong said.

Though the law stipulated Campione had to be sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole for 25 years, Stong seemed to want to soften the sentence by reminding the prison system of its obligation to provide “necessary psychiatric treatment and medical care while in their custody.”

“Stong extended to this vengefully embittered woman moral cover that all but made a mockery of the jury’s verdict,” said DiManno.

“I know what Rosie DiManno said, and it’s too bad she wasn’t there and heard all the evidence. That’s all I can say,” Stong told The Register two weeks later. “We had a 10-week trial. They (DiManno and Globe and Mail columnist Christie Blatchford) showed up two days short of 10 weeks.”

Stong’s approach to sentencing Campione has everything to do with the judge’s basic values and core convictions formed in the Church.

Stong is not just a casually Catholic judge. He was ordained a deacon in 2000, leads marriage preparation courses with his wife Raymonde Marie at Guardian Angels parish in Orillia, and he has an overarching concern with the formation of young people, an area where the 71-year-old judge hopes to concentrate his ministry in coming years.

“I cannot separate myself from my values — my values, my beliefs, what I grew up believing,” Stong said.

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