The hardest thing a mother can do
Would you turn your child in if they were accused of a crime?
I read in the media that one of the four arrested in
connection with the recent Tokai rape/robbery/murder was handed over to the
police by his mother.
Those words do not reveal anything of the poor woman’s
emotions. Did she do it in anger or did she think carefully and weigh up the
horror of the crime committed against her love for her child? Could it even
have been her love for her child that prompted her to see him punished? To
ensure that he could never repeat a crime so heinous? I don’t think any of us
will ever know.
I am sure every mother hearing that has to ask herself,
would I have done it? Could I have done it? It is always hard to predict what
any person will do in a certain set of circumstances. Even then, one may not
always do what one thought one would do.
When I worked in the law courts I saw many mothers
supporting their children who had been accused of various crimes; from youngsters
in the juvenile court convicted of petty crimes through to rapists and
murderers facing a life in prison.
I remember a particular rape trial. A man was on trial for
the rape of a young schoolgirl. He was young and good-looking, the sort of chap
you could like if you met him and did not know the circumstances. I watched his
mother in court and wondered what she was thinking as she listened to the
evidence. Did she believe in his innocence or did she grieve for the fact that
he had committed the crime? When the Court took a short adjournment, the
accused left the dock and I saw how gently he took his mother by the arm and
escorted her to the tea-room. I have never witnessed such a mingling of love
and evil and the memory stayed with me forever.
I also saw parents who had mortgaged their homes to provide representation
by top lawyers for their children. Did they do it because they believed their
children were innocent or because they wanted them to get off? Only they can
know. But once again we ask ourselves, what would I have done? Would I throw
away everything in pursuit of what could be a foolhardy exercise? Or would I
let justice prevail?
Another trial that has stayed in my memory over the years
took place in 1977. In that year the death sentence in South Africa was still
in existence, although abolished in 1995. The accused in this particular case was
sentenced to death for the murder of a young woman. Sitting in the gallery
during sentencing were his mother, his wife and his sister, all of whom had
supported him throughout the trial. On the other side of the courtroom sat the
family of the murdered girl. I knew the death sentence was to be passed so I
had had time to prepare myself for that moment. But nothing prepared me for the
screams and sobs of the three women that made up the family of the accused. I
remember I went and got them each a cup of tea, the most ludicrous thing to do
in the circumstances but what else was there to do? How do you speak to a woman
whose son has just been sentenced to death by hanging?
These memories came surging back when I heard that a mother
had handed her son over to the police to allow the Courts to dispense justice.
And I asked myself, could you do that?
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