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N Touch
Sunday 27 May 2018
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It takes a village

OUR SOCIETY is structured around the fundamental distinction between adult and child. And a child, even one who has reportedly done a terrible wrong, is still a child and must be treated as such.

There really are no words to describe the gruesome case of a Carapichaima mother whose hand was hacked off by her own son. The violation was all the more distressing given the nature of the dispute that precipitated the ordeal. Their argument was over a phone.

Yet, as detestable as this mother’s ordeal has been, in this matter there are two victims.

The 15-year-old child who allegedly has committed this crime is responsible for his actions. He should face the appropriate penalty. But even if he never does, he will have to live with the terrible fact of what he has done for the rest of his life.

The State and this society cannot ignore the fact that the aggressor in this case is a juvenile. Indeed, this is one instance where the criminal justice system should deploy its designated system used in cases involving children. The objective of such a system is to rehabilitate, not to bluntly and pointlessly wound.

It is wrong for any child to be subject to violence, bullying, threats or intimidation and as such we condemn in the strongest possible terms the utterances of the residents of Butler Village. They are wrong to pledge to take it upon themselves to punish the child. That is a matter for the law and for the child’s family.

It is for the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the DPP alone to determine whether criminal charges should be laid. The DPP having come to a determination on the basis of a sober analysis of all the relevant factors, that decision should be respected, not challenged by threats of vigilante justice.

The focus of the villagers, and us as a society as a whole, should be on what went wrong in the first place. The breakdown in family life, the belief that violence is a tool to solve our problems, the ease with which we descend into brutality – none of this is new. The boy’s actions, while they cannot be excused, simply express a social malaise that we have failed to cure. It really takes a village to raise a child.

What is a mother to do in a case such as this? Condemn her son to jail and to a life in which he will forever have a criminal offence recorded against his name? What is the State to do in a case such as this?

These are difficult questions. But what is clear is that it is not for a village mob to decide.


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