No judgment

This week's editorial.

The 100 Mile House RCMP made two arrests last week.

One was a teacher, who was subsequently charged with child exploitation. The other was a prohibited driver known to police who resisted arrest and allegedly injured an officer.

Both drew a certain amount of outrage on social media. But only one – the teacher – was named, partly because of his role in the school system and the fact there could allegedly be more victims. Within hours, his name and face were plastered on websites and social media sites, not only in 100 Mile House but across B.C.

Given the nature of the charge, it’s no wonder people are upset and angry. 100 Mile House is a small town. Peter Skene Ogden Secondary is the only high school in this part of the South Cariboo, taking students from the Interlakes, Lac La Hache, Forest Grove and as far south as 70 Mile House.

Those with daughters likely send them to that school. They could be worried about their younger children if a predator is indeed living among them. When it comes to exploitation, young women and men are always heard – and the cases investigated.

That’s the way it should be, especially when the alleged perpetrator is in a position of power and trust like that of a teacher. It takes a lot of guts and courage for a young person to come forward and they deserve to be heard.

But there are other factors at play. It could take years for this case to go through the courts yet in these days of social media, this man has already been judged and convicted. Guilty or not, he is already done. He’s likely to lose his job, face mental stress and probably have to leave town. There are some on social media who would like to draw and quarter him and the allegations haven’t even been proven in court.

Guilty until proven innocent.

It doesn’t matter if the case is overturned for whatever reason. The B.C. media likely won’t pick up the story then. A teacher charged and convicted of child exploitation makes for an eye-catching headline. One found innocent does not.

These cases are horrendous for everyone involved – the victims and the families involved on both sides – and erodes trust in our school system. Our children deserve to go to school and feel safe and respected and the punishment should definitely fit the crime.

At the same time, those accused also have the right to a fair trial. Until the facts are heard in court, withholding judgment as best we can is the most responsible thing to do.

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