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Justice at last for Rapunzel and her hero

19 Dec 2023 / law society Print

Justice at last for Rapunzel and her hero

At the mock trial of DPP v Mother Gothel in the Presidents’ Hall, Blackhall Place, on 13 December, Mother Gothel was found guilty on all charges relating to her holding Rapunzel in a tower for 18 years.

Judge John Campbell presided over the lively proceedings acted out by girls from fifth class at St Catherine’s School, Cabra, Dublin 7, with students from sixth class making up the jury.

This was the only primary-school mock trial in 2023 as part of the Street Law programme, which is run by the Law Society’s Mary Ann McDermott.

Mother Gothel was charged with false imprisonment under section 15 of the Non-fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997, assault under section 2 of the Non-fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997, and the attempted murder of Flynn Ryder.

A story of betrayal

The prosecution’s main argument was that Mother Gothel betrayed Rapunzel’s parents, King Ralph and Queen Rebecca, by trapping Rapunzel and denying them access to her, and then tried to kill Flynn Ryder by pushing him off the tower when he tried to rescue her.

However, the defence implied that it was Mother Gothel who had rescued Rapunzel in the first place, as all the King and Queen gave her to eat was “mouldy old cabbage”. Thanks to her “shrewd investments before the housing crisis”, Mother Gothel was able to “place Rapunzel in the lap of luxury”, the senior counsel said.

“We, the defence, believe that after the King was found to be stealing from Mother Gothel’s garden, he agreed to make amends by handing over his first-born child. This formed the basis of a legally binding agreement.”

Acting in self defence

The senior counsel went on to describe Flynn Ryder as “an intruder” who was attempting to steal Rapunzel’s Louis Vuitton Speedy handbag, and argued that Mother Gothel only acted in self-defence when she knocked him off the tower.

Flynn Ryder said in his testimony that this was “preposterous”; that he had never stolen anything in his life – apart from the heart of Rapunzel.

When she came to the stand, Rapunzel said that she never felt free to leave the tower at any time, and wouldn’t have wanted to be kept there if she had known about the world outside.

Because she was under 18 years of age, surprise witness Barbie gave her evidence through a (mock) live video link under section 13 of the Criminal Evidence Act 1992. She had asked Rapunzel to join her at the beach, but Rapunzel had said that she couldn’t leave the tower.

Victim-impact statement

Once the jury’s guilty verdict was delivered, King Ralph and Queen Rebecca gave a joint victim-impact statement, before Judge Campbell explained why this was important. He then passed the sentence.

Incoming Law Society President Barry MacCarthy spoke at the event, highlighting that the girls from St Catherine’s had learned about the rule of law, natural justice, the Lady of Justice, the Constitution of Ireland, judicial reasoning, and how the courts’ system worked – including courtroom practice.

“The girls have done incredible work since September of this year and have consistently shown interest and ability,” he said.

“When the class was asked if anyone would be interested in pursuing a career in law, half of the girls raised their hands. Maybe you will graduate in this very hall some day,” the president concluded.

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