Reason for hope
At a time when politics has carried the society to new levels of depravity, the public’s response to the jailing of single mother of three, Michelle Cudjoe, is a welcome expression of our belief in redemption.
There is no doubt about Ms Cudjoe’s guilt. She herself pleaded guilty to stealing a purse and running off with it. For this, Magistrate Indra Ramoo-Haynes sentenced her to seven months simple imprisonment. In sparing her the full penalty of 18 months in jail, the magistrate had taken into account the fact that Ms Cudjoe has three children of ages six, four and one, and was a first-time offender.
Public emotions have, however, been stirred by other facts as well. In addition to a prompt apology to her victim, Ms Cudjoe begged for mercy on the grounds that when she grabbed the purse from a fellow passenger in a taxi, she was at her wit’s end over how she was going to feed her children that night. For them, as well as other members of the national community, the cruellest cut of all is the separation of the children from a mother driven to desperation on their behalf.
Neighbours interviewed by the Express after the sentencing described Ms Cudjoe as a good mother who, in the absence of her children’s father, has been devoted to doing the best she could for them. At the shack that is their home at Friendship Village near Ste Madeleine, Express journalist Richard Charan saw the evidence of a mother trying to hold body and soul together for her children in the midst of deep poverty. That she resorted to stealing in doing so has been accepted by them as a misdeed committed in a moment of sheer desperation.
Michelle Cudjoe’s case has also moved several civic-minded attorneys who have stepped forward to volunteer their expertise for an appeal against the sentence.
At a time when so many pillars of society are collapsing in the dust of hubris and outright wrong-doing, such responses serve to restore some of our damaged faith in the goodness of our people.
Desperate or not, Michelle Cudjoe was wrong to victimise an innocent person. But neither the law nor the rest of us can look away and allow her to be judged in abstraction. Above all, the law is designed to keep order and to deliver justice.
While we do not intend to pre-judge Ms Cudjoe’s appeal, we do hope that in this matter involving a repentant mother, the law and the services provided for looking after the best interest of children and supporting single mothers will somehow manage to work together to bring this matter to optimum resolution.
If there’s anything good to come out of the jailing of Michelle Cudjoe it is that it has shone a light into the desperate lives of single mothers without an income. That is a reality we simply cannot afford to look away from.