Lessons in humility

Pam
Pam Frampton
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

"Humility is to make a right estimate of one's self."
- Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892), English preacher and author

Jim Walsh may be nearly 30 years older than Jason Marsh, but he could still learn a thing or two from him.
Both convicted criminals from St. John's were sentenced on the same day last week, but their behaviour in court was a study in contrasts.
Marsh, 31, pleaded guilty to his crimes - an assault and break-ins - and expressed remorse for what he had done. He was sentenced Wednesday to two years in jail.
That same day, Walsh, a former provincial cabinet minister who committed fraud and abused the public trust, lamented that he had been "wounded" by the judicial process.
Marsh admitted to having spit on a Telegram reporter last month, as well as to having broken into two Whitbourne-area businesses and to having attempted to break into a Mount Pearl company. He has a criminal record that's five pages long and includes previous convictions for break-ins and breaches of court orders.
His assault conviction is particularly troubling, since it is a tangible reminder of the hazards court journalists and sheriff's officers face every day in the course of doing their work. Jail time was warranted, as was the order banning him from contacting the reporter for three years.
People whose jobs bring them to court frequently are often subject to threats, taunts and physical violence, and hopefully this case will act as a deterrent, and a reminder that affronts to public safety will not be tolerated.

Mea culpa
Having said that, it was interesting to note that Marsh at least appeared sorry for what he had done, and said as much as he was being led out of court. He also acknowledged his responsibility by pleading guilty.
Given his previous history, few people were probably surprised to see him wend his way through the courts yet again.
Not so in Walsh's case, since he had been a respected and powerful member of society. Yet the former Liberal tourism minister, who padded his bank account with taxpayers' money, was often haughty and condescending during his trial.
He may be 60 years old, and his life and reputation may well have taken a big hit because of the trouble he brought on himself, but he has a pension healthy enough to withstand a $2,500-a-month clawback as he repays the more than $140,000 that mysteriously found its way from the public coffers into his bank account. He will also likely only serve a fraction of the 22 months to which he's been sentenced.
Then again, perhaps any amount of jail time is excruciating punishment for someone who considers himself to be socially superior to most people - including all those he now finds himself housed cheek by jowl with.

Dry-eyed? Me, too
But it's hard to feel sorry for a man who has done everything throughout this case but accept responsibility. He blamed the system, he blamed a former financial official, he blamed his staff. If you believed Walsh as he cried on the stand, everyone but him was intent on stuffing his pockets with money from the public treasury.
Who knows? Perhaps his sense of entitlement was so entrenched, he actually believed he deserved all that extra cash.
Now, I understand - as Judge David Orr pointed out in his sentencing decision - that "a person's first sentence of imprisonment should be as short as possible and tailored to the individual circumstances of the accused."
That's only fair. Unlike in bad courtroom dramas on TV, real judges don't actually yell "Throw the book at 'im!" during someone's first brush with the law.
And Walsh seems at low risk to reoffend since the very nature of his crimes means he is unlikely to find himself in a similar position of trust. Would you vote for him again?
That's how it should be.
So, perhaps his sentence is fair and just. But what still rankles many taxpayers is that he offered no explanation for his actions, gave no reason why he exploited a flawed constituency allowance system for years, all the while claiming to have only the public's best interests at heart.
The truth is, we didn't want to hear him thank his supporters; we wanted to hear him say he was sorry. If Marsh could manage those two little words, why couldn't Walsh? Because despite widespread public cynicism regarding politicians, that kind of betrayal really stings. We expect better behaviour of the people we elect to govern our affairs.
During sentencing, Walsh said that his family motto, translated from the Latin to English, means "wounded but not dead."
You're wounded, Mr. Walsh?
Perhaps you should adopt a new motto to live by: non furtum facies.
Thou shalt not steal.

Pam Frampton is The Telegram's story editor. She can be reached by e-mail at pframpton@thetelegram.com. Read her columns online at www.thetelegram.com.

Geographic location: St. John's, Whitbourne, Mount Pearl

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page

Comments

Comments

Recent comments

  • Paddy
    July 02, 2010 - 13:34

    Good column Ms. Frampton. But why do we need Mr. Walsh to say he is sorry? He seems incapable of making a right estimate of himself . He was escorted from court in handcuffs and chains. A shocking come down for a man with the hubris of Mr. Walsh. Justice, in this case, was served. We don't need his apology.

  • Paddy
    July 01, 2010 - 20:23

    Good column Ms. Frampton. But why do we need Mr. Walsh to say he is sorry? He seems incapable of making a right estimate of himself . He was escorted from court in handcuffs and chains. A shocking come down for a man with the hubris of Mr. Walsh. Justice, in this case, was served. We don't need his apology.