Thursday, 18 March 2010

So how was it for me?

The last time I went to Cardiff Crown Court I was a young reporter on the Western Mail with pretty good shorthand.

Today, almost a quarter of a century later, and with slightly less perfect Teeline, I was back: this time not as a reporter but as the son of a victim of crime.

Two things I learned today: the acoustics aren't so great in the public seats and you don't get to see the defendant's face during sentencing.

Sean White was smirking as he arrived at court and appeared to be smirking as he was taken down.

Perhaps he was born smirking, or he thought he got off lightly with a two-year sentence, the second out on licence.

The sentence would have been longer but the prosecution were unable to prove that White profited by more than the £2,000 he claimed. It was also reduced by one third for his guilty plea.

It was surreal to emerge from the court building and be faced by TV and still cameras and several hacks waiting to talk to my sister and me, an inside-out view of my daily existence.

All, from Real Radio to Wales News, asked me the how-do-you-feel question about the sentence.

I'm not unhappy with it. I'm not convinced keeping him banged up for longer would help the greater good. I'd rather see him doing some tough but useful community work, provided the judicial experience is enough to stop him doing something similar to someone else's mother.

On the other hand, perhaps he was smirking because he is genuinely terrified of the guys behind this and thinks he'll be safer inside.

For me, this not about revenge; it's not about the money. It's about how an evil bunch of greedy parasites tormented a dying elderly widow in her own home.

What pleased me most about the process was the way the judge, Paul Thomas QC, understood the impact of the crime on my mother and our family and the way he reflected that in the way he spoke to White.

The other question I've been asked today is: how did it happen?

That's a question, in the absence of my mother, none of us can fully answer. She was so ashamed at having been conned that she chose to suffer in silence with devastating consequences for her health.

We're not exactly the Waltons but throughout this she carried on as a Mum and devoted Granny with absolutely no hint of the inner mental torment she must have felt.

I thought our discovery of the scam would help give her peace of mind in her final weeks.

I was wrong. The shame she felt made things worse and she never came to terms with her fatal illness despite the brilliance of the staff at the Marie Curie Holme Tower hospice in Penarth.

I've been really touched by how many people have been in touch today and have shared or re-tweeted the story. The messages have helped restore my fractured faith in the fundamental decency of most people.

 I even had an e-mail from someone who was in Sunday School with my late father in Ammanford 70 years ago. Thank you all. Carry on re-tweeting.

It's not an obvious story to share, and re-living events today has been draining. I would rather not have had to bare my soul across the media but only by spreading the news can we alert people to the way some evil lowlifes target the old and vulnerable.

I have been asked the "closure" question a few times today. Part of me hates these psychobabble terms, but I understand what this one means. The main villains behind what the judge called this wicked enterprise are still out there so "closure" is some way off.

But as a family we can move on, to borrow another phrase from the world of psychobabble. We have to move on.

Back to the day job. Can I interest you in a fascinating item on the Barnett formula....?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very shocked and sorry to see the reporting last night and to hear about your mother. Best wishes, Simon Thomas