Decorator makes haven for victims of crime

2014-12-08 00:00

A COMFORTABLE haven has been created for victims of crime at the Pietermaritzburg high court through the generosity of a local decorator, Sarah Pennington.

Pennington, wife of former Michaelhouse rector Rex Pennington, has a passion for decorating.

When she heard Pietermaritzburg’s law courts needed a healing environment where victims of crime could escape from grim reality while the wheels of justice turn, she got to work without further ado.

Using her talents — and at her own cost — she turned a formerly “cold and bleak” room into a cosy waiting area for the many adults and children who often spend days at court giving evidence or supporting crime victims through trials.

“I was told that when people have suffered trauma they need a comfortable place to escape, sink down and have a cup of tea.

“I just went around and bought up junk. I hunt around for anything cheap, and I repaint, fix and repair.

“Roelien Wiesner [court preparation manager, KwaZulu-Natal] told me that many children come and give evidence and often get so terribly tired that they need a place to sleep. That’s when I got the idea of putting in a camp bed with a blanket and some toys. Apparently, they love it,” she said.

To tell her just how much the cosy space she created is appreciated were Anne Hamp­son and her son, Murray.

The latter survived an attack that claimed the life of his father, Mick, at their farm in Eston in September 2013.

The farmer was shot at close range with a shotgun by two men he and Murray had caught trespassing on the farm.

Murray and Anne Hampson said the room had been an escape and brought them no small measure of comfort during the month-long trial of the killers, which they had attended daily.

Wiesner — who heads a team of court preparation officials who help victims through the court process and compile victim impact statements, so that their voices too are “heard” — confirmed this is currently the only facility of its kind in KZN.

Deputy director of public prosecutions Cyril Selepe thanked Pennington for her donation.

“Witnesses are very important to us. A little bit of comfort can greatly help to reduce their trauma,” he said.

Meanwhile, Pennington has already turned her talents to helping others in need. She is involved in a project to redecorate a comfort room for families of ill people at Grey’s Hospital and has just completed a lounge for the elderly residents of Sunnyside Park.

She has no intention of stopping there.

“I will be looking for more jobs next year,” said Pennington enthusiastically.

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