Last week saw one of the more high profile court cases in Conception Bay North in recent memory.
© Compass file photo
Compass reporter/photographer Nicholas Mercer.
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.
- Nicholas Mercer is a reporter/photographer with The Compass. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.