Hampton principal apologises, admits presence at court 'inappropriate'

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — Hampton Principal Heather Murray, who has become embroiled in the controversy surrounding the alleged carnal abuse and rape of a 15-year-old St Elizabeth girl by a minister of religion, has issued an apology.
According to Murray, she had become so immersed in the emotional trauma of the hurt and embarrassment which the pastor’s wife was experiencing that she failed to realise that her presence in the precincts of the court could be “misconstrued as taking the side of her husband rather than the victim”.
The principal was thrown into the spotlight last week after turning up at the St Elizabeth Parish Court, reportedly in support of Clarke’s wife, who she later explained in a statement was a “very good friend of hers”, having both attended Hampton School, been educators, as well as serving on several boards, committees and commissions.
However, many members of the public have condemned Murray’s decision to attend the bail hearing, especially since Clarke’s wife was not present. Additionally, Murray’s attempts at blocking media personnel from taking photographs of the 64-year-old accused clergyman have also drawn public chastisement. On social media, especially, Murray was blasted for her decision, with many users expressing outrage and disappointment at her attendance in court.

See her statement in full below:
The past few days have been among the most difficult periods of my life.
I attended the in camera arraignment of Rupert Clarke at the special request of Mrs Yvonne Clarke, my sister and friend, who relied on me for total support during a period of intense physical and emotional distress.
This state of personal turmoil rendered her incapable of being present at the Black River courthouse while the resident magistrate was considering an application for bail.
On a personal level, I had become so immersed in the emotional trauma of the hurt and embarrassment which the wife of the accused was experiencing, that I failed to realise that my presence in the precincts of the court could possibly be misconstrued as taking the side of her husband rather than the victim.
In my sisterly embrace and response of loyalty to her, I failed to take into account that my being there could expose my office or the institution I head to any hint of controversy or cloud of misunderstanding.
At the start of the new school term yesterday morning, I apologised to my ladies who greeted me with love and understanding.
Now that I have also apologised to the Munro and Dickenson Trust, as well as the Hampton School Board, I hereby offer a fulsome apology to the education community and Jamaica for my presence and actions in Black River, which have been misinterpreted as support for the individual accused of rape and molestation of a 15-year-old girl.
The very thought that this might have been conveyed, grieves me deeply.
It would contradict everything I have stood for over my lifetime as a teacher, principal, mother, wife, and woman.
In this regard, my record of protecting all those under my care can withstand the most exacting scrutiny. There are countless teachers, pupils, parents, and workers in the field who can all attest to my resolute and consistent stand against any form of sexual abuse or exploitation.
I also accept that it was imprudent and inappropriate for me to take any steps in the precincts of the courthouse, irrespective of the legal stipulations, which could interfere with the rights of the free press or impede the work of media practitioners in the pursuit of duty.
Finally, I pledge that I will continue to faithfully serve and protect the children under my care as I have always done throughout my 40 years of service to the education system of Jamaica.

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