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Children's care after you murder spouse

There was a case recently where a man was found guilty of murdering his wife and the mother of his two children. This article also appeared in a popular South African magazine. Who would look after the children in such a case when the man goes to prison? Do the children have rights to ask that from a constitutional viewpoint their father should not be locked up?

This case was that of Gordon Lorimer (33) who was convicted of culpable homicide for the death of his wife, Colette Lorimer. Mr Lorimer claimed that it was actually an accident when he grabbed his wife around the neck and she passed away. He also says that she had attacked him first, that she had a black belt in karate and that she was 40 kg heavier than him.

The couple had got married shortly after they met when Mr. Lorimer had moved into a house next door to Colette. They were happy at first, but problems started developing after their twin boys were born. Mr Lorimer says that his wife had suffered from post-natal depression. He says that he dropped the children at a care centre in the morning and fetched them after work and got up in the night to change and feed them.

On the night of her death Colette had apparently plucked one of the babies from his chair and put him down roughly. Mr Lorimer says that he asked his wife not to take her anger out on the baby. She attacked him apparently and he accidently choked her to death.

Mr Lorimer was convicted and sentenced to six years in jail, and his appeal has been rejected. All that he can hope for now is that the Constitutional Court may say that he doesn’t have to go to jail, as his children have rights to his parental care.

This kind of case could lead to a great deal of debate in our family law in South Africa if he is acquitted. Can somebody who takes another’s life be acquitted in order that he be there for his children, who no longer have their mother?

I would say that each case must be looked at individually. In this particular case it would seem as though the two boys, now seven, had forgiven their father for what he had done to their mother. The children appeared to have a good bond with their father, who still played a huge role in their lives.

From a Constitutional viewpoint children do have the right to parental care, and to grow up knowing their parents. In this particular case there is a good possibility it would seem, that the Constitutional Court rules in favour of Mr. Lorimer. Even though the children no longer have a mother, the court may find that they still have the right to grow up with their father.

Every child has the right to grow up with his or her biological parents, and this should always be encouraged by our courts. The only time that a parent should not be allowed to see the child is in the case of extreme misconduct or when he or she is a risk to the child’s safety.

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