If you have been surfing the internet, you have likely seen several videos of former US Judge Francesco Caprio and his unique approach to handling people in his courtroom. His kindness to individuals awaiting judgement has earned him the title of the 'world's nicest judge.'

"In a world that seems to be driven by conflict and division, people are yearning for kindness…that I find in my courtroom and here in Sharjah," said Judge Francesco Caprio while addressing the audience at the 12th edition of the International Government Communication Forum (IGCF) that kicked off in Sharjah on Wednesday, September 13, at the Sharjah Expo Center.

Judge Francesco Caprio gained widespread recognition as videos showcasing his compassionate and considerate demeanour towards individuals in his courtroom went viral.

"I am here in this beautiful cultural centre of Sharjah, 11,000km from my home, because of a message of compassion, mercy and understanding," he said. "I learned that a little compassion from the government to help people solve their real-life challenges was a much more productive way to perform my duties as a judge."

Several dignitaries attended the event, including His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad AlQasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah and Mariam Almheiri, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, chairwoman of the Emirates Food Security Council.

A lesson for life

However, Judge Francesco admitted that he was not always this compassionate or kind. Reminiscing his early days as a judge, he shared how he handed out the maximum fine to a couple. "In their presentation before the court, they were so belligerent and obstinate," he said. "They were aggressive, and I really didn't like their attitude. I fined them to the maximum. And in my mind, I said, 'I really fixed them', and I set an example."

After retiring to his chamber, his father came to visit him. When he asked his father- who he described as "a humble man with great vision"- what he thought of his sentencing, his father's response taught him a lesson he would never forget.

"He said, Frank, how could you make them pay the full fine? You should have helped them," he said. "Why didn't you understand their circumstances? It wasn't because they were bad people. And he gave me a lesson on compassion, understanding, and forgiveness, particularly based on the circumstances of each situation."

Judge Francesco said that since then, he has always put himself in the shoes of those who appear before him. "That simple lesson I learned from my father has resonated around the world," he said.

Finding friendship in the courtroom

Despite judging thousands of cases, some stand out in his memory, and one is that of 96-year-old Victor Coelho, who was charged with speeding.

"He said to me that he only drives when he has to and that he was taking his son for cancer treatment," he recalled. "And then he added that his son was 63 years old. We had indisputable evidence that he was guilty. I knew it. He knew it. Everybody in the courtroom knew it. But this wonderful man was so dedicated to his family that there was no way he would run to pay a fine in my courtroom. So, considering his circumstances, I dismissed the case. I congratulated him for being a great father, and I told him that we would pray for his son."

Victor became an internet sensation, with over 500 million people watching his video. Furthermore, Judge Francesco and Victor have been firm friends ever since and have even been invited to each other's house for meals. "I can tell you that his son is cancer-free, and Victor is doing fine," he said. "And he asked me to report how this trip went when I got back. So, I'll tell him that it was a big hit."

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