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?

Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.

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