Wed | Jul 26, 2017

Editorial | Cutting Mrs Murray some slack

Published:Monday | January 9, 2017 | 1:09 AM

We are inclined to cut Heather Murray a bit of slack, which starts, unless there are compelling arguments to the contrary, by not conflating the issues.

On one issue, she is indefensibly wrong. She had no right, role or function, as a private citizen at a public event, to interfere with a photographer carrying his journalistic function of taking pictures of a prisoner being led from a courthouse. But she breached, in this circumstance, no moral conduct by being there.

Of course, Mrs Murray is in peculiar position and we appreciate how, and why, her presence at the courthouse will have offended many people. She is principal of Hampton High School, an all-girls institution of over 1,200 students. And in a society where older men are often accused of sexually predatory behaviour towards young girls, she was perceived to be out in support of a hitherto respected preacher, who is accused of having sex with a minor.

Mrs Murray's presence there, did not suggest sufficient empathy with, caring for, or protection of the alleged victims of the crime, and by extension, all potential young victims of sexual abuse, including the students over whom she has charge. That, though, in this circumstance, is not a fulsome analysis, especially if you take Mrs Murray at her word that the primary object of her support was not Rev Rupert Clarke, but his wife, a friend of several decades, going back to childhood days.

"Such is the closeness of our relationship that when the news broke, I was naturally the first person to whom she turned for solace and support," said Mrs Murray. "I have not left her side since because I know that my friend needs me."

The calculated, calculating, and, in the circumstance, politically correct, course action for Mrs Murray would have been to have stayed from the precincts of the St Elizabeth Parish Court. But her presence there, even in the absence of Mrs Clarke, assuming that she wasn't there, does not necessarily mean endorsement of Rev Clarke's alleged behaviour or a weakening of any nurturing instincts towards her students.

 

EMPATHY FOR VICTIM

 

The capacity for empathy is a great human condition, and feeling her friend's hurt and attempting to deflect some of that pain, or any sympathy she may feel for the Rev Clarke, doesn't necessarily derogate from the empathy Mrs Murray may share with his alleged victim, or anyone who suffers abuse.

There is where we do not believe that Mrs Murray's statement of explanation didn't go far enough, which we hope she has already remedied at her school and must now do with the rest of Jamaica. She must make it clear that while she empathises with Mrs Clarke, and is distressed over the shame that family must bear, she is unequivocal that the law, in this case, must run its full, unrestrained course. People want to be assured of her intolerance towards sexual abuse and the perpetrators of such crime will find no sanctity from her. There is nothing contradictory between this attitude and the capacity for empathy,

Mrs Murray has another task: she must unconditionally apologise for attempting to impede the photographer.