Should she be for­given?

The Compass - - OPINION - – Ni­cholas Mercer is a re­porter/pho­tog­ra­pher with The Com­pass. He can be reached at nmercer@cb­n­com­pass.ca.

Last week saw one of the more high pro­file court cases in Con­cep­tion Bay North in re­cent mem­ory.

A woman charged with 45 counts in con­nec­tion with a hor­rific case of child abuse ap­peared be­fore the judge pre­sid­ing over her case. The pro­ceed­ings lasted un­der an hour and ended with the woman be­ing con­victed on 20 of the 45 counts (see re­lated story).

The court room in Har­bour Grace on May 14 bore wit­ness to the largest pub­lic gallery in this re­porter’s mem­ory.

There were nu­mer­ous mem­bers of the me­dia, additional se­cu­rity and even po­lice of­fi­cers dressed in civil­ian clothes, as well as stu­dents from a lo­cal post-sec­ondary in­sti­tute com­plet­ing a child and youth worker pro­gram.

If the up­per part of the gallery had been opened, there would have been more.

The people there to up­date their bail con­di­tions must have been in for a shock when they showed up and were re­quired to empty their pock­ets and await a pat-down.

The ac­cused ap­peared un­fazed by the amount of people, or even her charges. She sat sto­ically in front of Judge James Walsh. Her shoul­ders never slumped and her head never dipped. She looked straight ahead as her sen­tenc­ing was read out.

While it’s un­fair to say she feels no re­morse for what she has done, it does beg the ques­tion based on her body lan­guage. It stood out and was a stark con­trast to ev­ery­one else in the gallery.

There were au­di­ble gasps of shock and people were vis­i­bly un­com­fort­able as the de­tails sur­round­ing her charges were read out, but noth­ing from the ac­cused. Ab­so­lutely noth­ing.

Is she at peace with what she has done, and has sim­ply placed her fate in the hands of the court? That’s some­thing only she can an­swer, al­though I doubt she will ever be at peace. The pub­lic will not let her.

Why should she be given le­niency when her chil­dren will never be free? Why were over half of her charges dis­missed?

It’s be­cause she, like ev­ery­one else, is en­ti­tled to due process and the pre­sump­tion of in­no­cence un­til proven guilty.

That is a prin­ci­ple our coun­try was built upon and it is one that has to be fol­lowed here. We don’t live in a dic­ta­tor­ship. We don’t live in dystopian so­ci­ety where pub­lic opin­ion rules. We can’t rule over the de­plorable with an iron fist and shielded world­view.

Maybe she will not get enough pun­ish­ment from the le­gal sys­tem to sat­isfy the pub­lic’s in­sa­tiable thirst for jus­tice, but that’s not for us to de­cide.

She will get prison time and she will lose her chil­dren. She will for­ever carry around the stigma of be­ing an abu­sive mother. Wher­ever she goes, whether it is the gro­cery store, the gas sta­tion or to the lo­cal hair sa­lon, that will be her scar­let let­ter.

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