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Clive Stafford Smith talk

CliveStaffordSmith_portraitFuelled by tea and a cookie, it’s now time for the second session – Global Connections – and Clive Stafford Smith.

He begins with a tribute to his aunt who died recently. She was born at the wrong time, when opportunities were not available to women. His dad had bi-polar disorder, which has led to some interesting stories! Many of his actions were not the action of a rational mind. His aunt couldn’t accept that her brother was mentally ill, so didn’t accept that this drove his actions and were not necessarily bad in intention.

… Which leads to a story about Ricky, a convicted child molester and murderer. His mother was severely injured in a car accident, and while she was pregnant continued to be given all sorts of drugs, one of which has been linked to paedophilia. Ricky developed psychosis from an early age, and started molesting other children even though he had no idea what he was doing. At some point he had a counselling session, which told him he had a mental disorder and shouldn’t be released or he would reoffend. He was bright, so himself wrote to the state board saying he shouldn’t be released but kept in a mental hospital… but bureaucracy intervened… and then he killed a child.

The DA tried to seek the death penalty. Eventually there were conversations between Ricky and the mother of the boy he killed, who heard his story and said she’d fight for him. But the DA continued to seek the death penalty, and the mother was now considered to be unfit to parent her other children.

Ricky himself wanted to be a case study, to improve understanding of his condition. At the trial, the mother wanted to testify that Ricky was mentally ill and should be kept in a mental hospital and never released. Her testimony supporting him was very moving, and Ricky was spared the death penalty.

Clive concludes with two points. First, the mother was a victim, and the government tried to teach her to hate, but she tried to understand. Second, a person with mental health issues needs to be understood and not hated, which might get us to a place where we can prevent harm.