June 1, 2017 10:06 pm

COMMENTARY: Is prison justice too cruel for Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy’s killer?

Paul Bernardo arrives in the back of a police car for a court appearance in St. Catharines on Aug 5, 1993.

T The Canadian Press Images/Phil Snelhe Canadian Press Images/Phil Snel

Debbie Mahaffy and I were sitting at a quiet lunch when Leslie’s mother asked if I would moderate the memorial service for Leslie and Kristen French at a church in Burlington, Ontario, Leslie’s hometown.

I had gotten to know Debbie Mahaffy, as well as Kristen’s parents, Doug and Donna French under the most terrible of circumstances: the abductions and murders of their daughters Leslie and Kristen. Initially our contact was was professional.  They would speak with me on air.  Eventually though we befriended each other.

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This nation hoped and prayed Leslie and Kristen would be discovered alive.  Then the country grieved; for and with the families.

READ MORE: Is convicted killer Karla Homolka legally allowed to volunteer in schools?

We had followed each morsel of news and demanded of the Niagara Regional Police Green Ribbon Task Force that they identify Leslie’s and Kristen’s killer or killers. Leslie had been found the very day Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka were married in Bernardo’s hometown of St. Catharines.  It was also Kristen’s hometown.

There was the day Sgt. Vince Bevan, head of the Green Ribbon Task Force joining me for a broadcast almost quietly said “the killers will most likely be listening today.”  A chilling moment.  “Because they will want to know as much as possible whether police are closing in.”  I had the feeling then that most likely police were closing in. The arrests of Bernardo and Homolka followed shortly afterward.

WATCH: Could Paul Bernardo walk free?

What happened then, few have forgotten. The so-called Deal with the Devil, allowing Homolka a benign 12-year prison sentence on manslaughter convictions in return for her testimony against Bernardo, while Bernardo was convicted of first-degree murders, including that of Homolka’s then 14-year-old sister Tammy, as well as a series of rapes and sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.

Both Homolka and Bernardo have been in the news recently. Homolka over her volunteer work at the school her children attend in Quebec and Bernardo because the expiry of his sentence of no opportunity to petition for parole is arriving and he will be free to ask the court for some kind of release.

READ MORE: Karla Homolka must be given chance to re-enter society, say advocates for convicts

I served as the national trustee for the Victims Assistance Fund for the French and Mahaffy families during the Bernardo trial. There were few requirements, but there was and remains little most of us in Canada would refuse to do for Kristen and Leslie’s families.

Men incarcerated in Canada’s federal prisons would not hesitate to exact a pound of flesh.

While airing a broadcast with the inmates committee at Joyceville penitentiary, a medium security prison located near Kingston, Ontario prior to the Bernardo and Homolka horror, I asked the offenders who included two convicted murderers what would happen if then-incarcerated B.C. serial child killer Clifford Olson were placed into general population at Joyceville.  The answer was swift and unequivocal.  “He would be murdered.”

READ MORE: Convicted killer Karla Homolka volunteers at her children’s Montreal school: reports

The prison justice system would no doubt deliver an identical verdict for Paul Bernardo, who has been kept segregated from other offenders.

Decide for yourself whether the prison justice system is too cruel,  or whether it is entirely acceptable.

I know where I stand.

Roy Green is the host of The Roy Green Show and a commentator for Global News.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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