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Don’t judge Darren Huckerby’s family - it could happen to any parent

PUBLISHED: 18:00 04 June 2020 | UPDATED: 08:26 05 June 2020

Ben Huckerby. Parents should have nothing but sympathy for his family, says Steve Downes    Picture: NORFOLK CONSTABULARY

Ben Huckerby. Parents should have nothing but sympathy for his family, says Steve Downes Picture: NORFOLK CONSTABULARY

NORFOLK CONSTABULARY

When I was younger, I hated it when my parents said “what will people think of us?” when I got into trouble.

Darren Huckerby. Parents should have nothing but sympathy for him and his family after their son Ben was jailed, says Steve Downes   Picture: Jamie HoneywoodDarren Huckerby. Parents should have nothing but sympathy for him and his family after their son Ben was jailed, says Steve Downes Picture: Jamie Honeywood

What did their reputations matter to me? I was a teenager, and the only important person in my life was me, followed closely by me.

If the neighbours or the wider Cromer public saw me drinking cider in the bus shelter or carrying road signs home in a shopping trolley, so what? None of their business.

That all changed when I became a dad.

Suddenly, I got it: I knew that it was crucial that my children were seen to be well presented and well behaved, not grubby, foul-mouthed and feral.

It was for their own sake, of course. But it was also for my reputation: I certainly did not want Jenny, Spenny, Andy or Mandy making my family the subject of schoolgate gossip.

Mercifully, I have been incredibly fortunate with my children, who have between them caused far fewer headaches to their parents than I did to mine.

They are not just more mature and well-behaved than I was at their age, but also than I am now.

Parenting does play a part, but so does luck.

That’s why I have nothing but sympathy for Darren Huckerby and his wife right now.

It’s easy to sneer when you see someone’s child go “off the rails”, as Norwich Crown Court heard his 18-year-old son Benjamin had, culminating in terrifying robberies in Norwich.

The self-righteous will judge them, saying they cannot have done a good job raising their son.

If that’s you, zip your lips and keep your opinions to yourself.

For parenting is for life, and you never know when trouble is coming. There are countless “wrong crowds” to fall in with, numerous temptations, disappointments and obstacles.

We all do our best to lay firm foundations, to educate our youngsters about right and wrong, to love and to nurture them.

But that will not guarantee a totally positive outcome.

Huckerby senior was brave to speak out so soon after seeing his son jailed, and did so in a dignified manner. He acknowledged Ben’s faults, spoke of his “devastation” for the victims of the robberies, and added his family would “support him to turn into the young man we hoped he would grow up to be”.

Huckerby junior is young, he has a strong and loving family: hopefully he will choose a new path when he has served his time. It may even be the making of him.

Meanwhile, spare a thought for hs family.

They are not a “normal” family. Darren is one of Norwich City’s greatest ever players, and is adored in these parts.

He is recognised wherever he goes, and his profile means he and his wife are treated as public property. There is nowhere for them to hide - unlike us, who can shut the door and wait for the storm to blow over when our children hit the skids.

Darren faced up to things in exactly the right way, but he and his family will carry the regret, sadness, anger and guilt for a long while.

They will be asking themselves what they did wrong and how they could have done things differently.

The likely answer is “nothing”. Sometimes our best is not good enough, and our children have to navigate the wrong turnings before finding the right path.

So if you feel like taking the moral high ground, don’t.

Have sympathy for and solidarity with the Huckerbys, and remember - there but for the grace of God go all of us.


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