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Colin Randall wrote here on France, things Anglo-French and more......but has moved

December 05, 2006

End of the road?

This site has now moved to Salut!

There will be relief among many of my readers that this, barring some unforeseen development or need to reply, is intended as my last word on the Nathalie Gettliffe affair.

From the responses since I first raised the subject, it is clear that some agree the issue was worth airing, a few feel indignation that an outsider should express an opinion on any aspect of Canadian justice and at least one wants me to pipe down and Gett a Liffe.

Reports of the case, on both sides of the Atlantic, have sometimes been confused and confusing. Today, there is a fresh gloss on the 16-month sentence passed on Monday and initially reported as leaving Gettliffe with six months to serve for the abduction of the two children she had with her ex-husband, Scott Grant.

It could be little as four months, we now learn, if she behaves herself in jail, or two if she succeeds in a bid for parole.

All of which reinforces my view that a sentence providing for her immediate release would have been the appropriate one, preferably but not necessarily by means of a suspended term. It is a struggle to think of a rational reason for making her spend this many, that many more weeks inside.

Nathalie Gettliffe is no saint, nor even a model mother whose actions can easily be excused, even if no account of the hearing I have seen describes precisely why she acted as she did.

Nor does she deserve mercy solely because she has already paid heavily for her misdeeds. It is simply my case that there is not a single decent cause to be served by her continued imprisonment.

The interests of deterrence and retribution have been amply met by the detention of an intelligent but misguided woman of previous good character for eight months and throughout a difficult pregnancy.

Being made to give birth while a prisoner, wherever delivery actually takes place, would surely be a pretty stiff punishment for any woman.

But I am even more concerned about the impact on her children, all four of them.

Madam Justice Marvyn Keonigsberg said Gettliffe's vilification of her former husband was one of the most seriously troubling aspects of the case, causing him and their children "immeasurable, perhaps irretrievable harm".

In what way incarcerating her for another two, four or six months can possibly help heal that damage, and make the children happier and more settled with their father, is not clear.

Judge Koenigsberg faced, as she acknowledged and I recognised, a tough task in deciding the right sentence.

I respect her conclusions that Gettliffe deserved severe punishment for encouraging the children to hate their father and "brainwashing" them into believing him to be a brute who belonged to a religious cult.

The view that a more compassionate decision could have been reached is no less respectable.

While I hoped to avoid further comment, some of the reactions justifies this added thought. Certain aspects of the case - and in particular the about-turn made by Gettliffe in its closing stages - frankly baffle me.

Taken at face value, the outcome can be seen - as Le Figaro noted when summing up opinion in France, where she would almost certainly not have been jailed - as "harsh but not scandalous".

Despite criticism from a small number of readers, my very own tricoteuses, the fact is that I repeatedly distanced myself from the extravagant claims of some of Gettliffe's supporters. I expressed no view on her guilt or innocence or on Grant's religious activities, but reported what was being said on both sides, with much more restraint than I have seen elsewhere, including here.

However, I stand squarely by my reasons for raising the matter in the first place. I never believed the world would be a better or safer place because Nathalie Gettliffe was in prison, and still don't.

And I do believe that a mature and civilised democracy should find better ways - does possess better ways - of dealing with a pregnant woman, unconvicted but facing trial, than throwing her in jail.

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This site has now moved to Salut!


At December 05, 2006 1:50 PM, Blogger richard of orléans said...

Unfortunately I don't think this discussion has aired all the arguments. Colin R has concentrated on his 'social worker', emotional mum defence of Nathatalie Getliffe and her children. Bill has not always put forward his no doubt sound arguments. On due reflection I thoroughly disagree with Colin R. NG committed the crime of kidnapping her children, when,undoubtedly for sound reasons, she did not have custody. The legislator has rightly considered this a serious crime warranting up to 10 years in jail. Now are we going to let her get away with that despite, only until recently, showing no remorse?

What about the children? I agree it is extremely tough on the children and their choice of parents appears poor. But let us not forget that the underlying rules are intelligent and designed to protect children in general. If we allow Canadian justice to be discredited by the whims of NG and partner then many more children will suffer in the future.

Indeed I believe this case only blew up because of the weakness of international justice. NG felt she could shelter herself from Canadian law by going to France. She was almost right. I am glad to see that international justice has finally prevailed. Let us hope that this is a first step towards a greater cause for international courts. The trying of Bush and Blair for crimes against humanity.

At December 05, 2006 1:53 PM, Anonymous SH said...

Well, Colin Randall, might you now turn your attention to another tug-of-war case, namely that of Molly Campbell or Misbah Rana as she is known in Pakistan? No prospect of jail for anyone, but a difficult problem.

Or perhaps Andrew Wallis's article in today's "Times" on France's shameful part in the Rwandan genoicide deserves your attention.

At December 05, 2006 2:29 PM, Blogger Bill Taylor said...

Well put, Richard. You sum up the situation admirably. I suspect that, along with most of us here, Colin will be glad to see the back of this issue. Having picked it up in the first place, he seems to have felt unable to put it down again and his blogs tended to replace logic with emotion. Not a good thing for a journalist to be doing, though nor was passing such strong opinions when he admitted he was not in possession of all the facts.
I doubt, SH, whether Colin will ever go near another tug-of-war case.

At December 05, 2006 4:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

OUF! That's that one dealt with at last! As she has a criminal record, can she run for President in France? I sincerely hope not otherwise we shall hear more of NG on the blog as the elections move into top gear!

At December 05, 2006 4:35 PM, Blogger Bill Taylor said...

Yeah, she's cuter than Ségolène Royal and Colin has proved himself susceptible to a pretty face. Never mind the package, let's look at the wrapping...

At December 05, 2006 7:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've just heard on the news on FR3 that NG's sentence was harsh as the judge did not appreciate the remarks made by her family/supporters towards her ex...(too much publicity?!)

Her lawyer has asked that she be moved to France, and if this works, she will probably be released immediately...

At December 05, 2006 9:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I now this is changing the subject, or even high jacking your honourable blog, but you have such a wise, sharing, caring audience I'd value their opinion on something that troubles me.

The decorations are out and postmen, firemen and just about anyone else who can get past the front door arrives with calendars that I don’t need or want but feel duty bound to buy. But you can risk getting that wrong. No-one (I hope) has been set on fire or left to drown after too small a contribution to the local pompiers. But what about the Gardienne? The nice lady that keeps the hall clean, looks after the post and keeps away riffraff?

Thirteen years I’ve lived here and I’m still not sure I get it right. I’ve just moved so I get a fresh start. I don’t want to blow it!

At December 05, 2006 9:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ooh, I just spelt ‘know’ without the ‘k’, but I can’t go back and edit. The shame!

At December 05, 2006 9:19 PM, Blogger Bill Taylor said...

You spelled "hijacking" wrong, too, but what the hell. If you've survived 13 years, you're obviously doing fine with the Gardiennes. In fact, you may have been giving too generously. If you want to live dangerously, try reducing the amount a little this year.

At December 05, 2006 10:26 PM, Blogger richard of orléans said...

Well you should most certainly give something to the pompiers and the facteur. Other métiers don't normally go in for this business so watch out for crooks. It's not that your post won't be delivered nor your fires extinguished, though that may happen. The problem is that everybody in the street will know what a tight sod you are, and you will be pointed out to the new arrivals as you queue up for your baguette.
La gardienne is different. There is usually no custom of an xmas box. But check with the locals.If she does something special for you, it would be an occasional bunch of flowers or maybe something from London. Chocolates at Christmas would go down well.
These little investments in goodwill pay off handsomely.

At December 06, 2006 12:49 AM, Anonymous PhantomZone said...

Ha! Are you kidding? This is far from over. Now we get to live through the civil trial.

And what's going to happen between her and the children after she gets out of jail? Trying to balance being a mom and presidential canidate (or president if she wins) will definately make seeing them difficult.

At December 06, 2006 10:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone read about the 'Jackpot Pensions' given to French fonctionnaires to spend their last decades sunning themselves on a south Pacific island, or pretending they do whilst living in France?
No wonder everyone wants to be a fonctionnaire rather than working their butts off as a persecuted entrepreneur.

At December 08, 2006 2:31 AM, Blogger Alan said...

Like Colin, I've been mystified by some aspects of this case since I first heard of it - by accident when I spotted a reference to it on a French channel on my hotel telly in Italy.

Why is the judge so adamant that Grant isn't a member of a cult, when he manifestly is? There's plenty of info about the International Church of Christ - banned from universities, etc.

Nathalie Gettliffe is obviously a woman of some firmness of character. She has not in the past been cowed by judicial orders. She managed to defend her doctoral thesis in prison. It does seem strange that she should buckle, pleading guilty and professing "remorse". It may simply be that her legal advisers have persuaded her that this is worth doing in order to reduce her sentence.

Even stranger is the silence on the two websites that have been set up in support of Dr Gettliffe. A bit of searching on google.fr reveals that M. Gruzelle has been his outspoken self in press interviews, but not a word of his robust description of the Canadian prime minister has found its way on to the Association Nathalie Gettliffe website.


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