Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland until I return to the Murcia region of Spain in the Autumn for a month or so
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Friday, 9 July 2004

Three cheers for Judge Brian Leveson

A remarkable case was heard yesterday at Preston Crown Court. Bernard Heginbotham, now 100 years old, was arrested after murdering his wife of 67 years (in itself pretty remarkable!). He killed his wife, Ida (87 years old), because she faced spending the remainder of her life in the dementia ward of a nursing home. Her health had deteriorated from that of a fit and active woman following two hip replacement operations. After a fall she was admitted to a series of care homes.

Judge Leveson described the killing as 'an act of love' and continued:

"The killing of your wife, to whom you had been married joyously for 67 years, followed by your attempt to take your own life, was an act of desperation carried out in an attempt to end her suffering and the intolerable pressure you were under as you sought to provide care and companionship for her.

"It was, in truth, an act of love and I have no doubt that you suffered a mental disorder at the time.

"The pre-sentence reports speak of it being difficult to conceive a more distressing case than this, and I entirely agree.

"It was, as you well know, a terrible thing to do but I accept entirely the circumstances in which you did it and that your feelings of guilt and remorse have been overwhelming.

"The reaction of your sons and their families as they have come to terms with their loss and rallied round to support you in your greatest hour of need says all that needs to be said about their feelings for you and the closeness of your relationship."

He ordered Mr Heginbotham to complete a 12-month rehabiliation order and said that the case provided "no benchamark or guidance for any other". In other words, he does not consider that a precedent has been set. He hoped he would enjoy the time that remained to him and said he did not believe Mr Heginbotham would find the conditions of his rehabilitation order difficult, allowing him to return home to the love and care of his family. Even the prosecuting counsel, Hilary Banks, spoke of the couple's devotion to each other and their children.

Truly remarkable and truly sad. It is immensely pleasing that the law has, in this instance, been able to temper its judgement with mercy. Judge Leveson has acted with considerable humanity.

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