TORONTO, October 5, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – The judge who intoned “your God is wrong” while imposing what was effectively a maximum prison sentence on pro-life activist Mary Wagner last March has himself been smacked down by a judicial colleague following an appeal.
In a recently released written decision, Superior Court Justice Kenneth L. Campbell overturned the harsh term of six months in prison imposed by Justice S. Ford Clements in the Ontario Court of Justice and reduced it to time served, as had originally been agreed upon by the Crown and defence in joint submissions.
More significantly, Campbell had strong words of criticism for Clements’ handling of the matter on several fronts.
“The trial judge ought not to have engaged in a predictably unproductive debate with a boisterous courtroom spectator during the sentencing hearing,” he wrote. “Nor should the trial judge have then spontaneously cross-examined the accused on her understanding of the rule of law. Finally, a number of comments made by the trial judge during the course of the sentencing hearing in this case were ill-advised and inappropriate.”
Campbell ruled Clements erred in principle in a number of respects in imposing “a manifestly unfit sentence which must be reduced.” Clements also “failed to take into consideration the hardship that his decision to send the appellant to jail for another three months would cause to the appellant…This was simply not a case where such a sentence was appropriate.”
Campbell added the sentence was simply too long and disproportionate to the nature of the offences and the personal circumstances of the appellant.
“In this regard it is important to recall that the mischief by the appellant, in interfering with the lawful operation of the clinic by ‘disturbing patients,’ lasted less than five minutes,” Campbell ruled.
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Clements “ not only failed to accord the joint submission considerable weight, he did not attempt to explain, in his Reasons for Sentence, why he had elected to reject it. He stated his conclusion that the joint submission was contrary to the public interest and would bring the administration of justice into disrepute, but he offered no explanation or justification in support of this bare conclusion.”
Defence lawyer Peter Boushy, who handled the lion’s share of the appeal along with trial counsel Russell Browne, said Campbell’s decision “sends a message to the legal community that all accused — even pro-life activists found guilty of mischief — should be treated equally and respectfully under the law.”
Wagner had been found guilty of mischief and two counts of breaching probation orders for entering the Bloor West Village “Women’s Clinic” abortion site and attempting to speak to abortion-minded women. Clements berated her for what he saw as, among other things, cowardice, “abusing other people,” and causing “pain and grief.” He then opined that if he had the power, he would have someone in her face every day, “go and rattle her door.”
“You are wrong and your God is wrong,” he said,
At one point, he went so far as to put Wagner’s actions on a par with the violence in Syria.
Even Crown attorney Rick Nathanson at the appeal hearing conceded that Clements’ remarks were “inelegant” and “unfortunate.”
The victory is cold comfort for Wagner, who unnecessarily ended up serving an additional 62 days in jail before her release in late May. She does, however, have the option of filing a complaint with the Judicial Council of Ontario, which oversees the conduct of judges.
Wagner is currently imprisoned at the Vanier Centre for Women in Milton on more recent charges of mischief and two counts of failing to comply with probation orders after an arrest at the “Women’s Care Clinic” abortion site on Lawrence Avenue West in Toronto. She is scheduled to appear in the Ontario Court of Justice at College Park this coming Tuesday, October 9 for a bail hearing. The Crown has indicated it will oppose her release pending trial “no matter what.”
Read the entire text of Judge Campbell’s decision here.
Watch a video of Russell Brown interviewed by Ezra Levant on Sun news after the appeal decision here.