JENNIFER Lowe will wake up today and begin her life all over again.
After five years of mental torture, the criminal case against the former Warrnambool City councillor and her husband Robbie was thrown out of court yesterday.
It was done without ceremony as these matters often are — after returning from a lunch break, the prosecution blandly announced that it would withdraw all charges, having realised that the case was unwinnable. For the long-suffering Lowes, it was like a giant, stubborn cloud had been lifted. Closure at long last. Too good to be true, but it was.
Mrs Lowe wept openly as the full realisation of what that meant dawned on her in the courtroom — no more lawyers’ bills, no more innuendo, no more avoidance and embarrassment, no more explaining to her two beloved daughters, no more fear of what could happen if she was found guilty, no more humiliation. In their place, just a warm and wonderful sense of vindication, relief and joy.
But underneath the happiness, there will be anger and a sense of grievance that the matter got as far as the courts in the first place, its foundations being flimsy at best.
Jennifer Lowe’s name has been tarnished. It is more than likely that she failed to get re-elected to the city council at the last local government elections because of the publicity surrounding the case. Her family has suffered and she has almost been ruined financially, although there is a fair chance costs will be recouped at another court hearing down the track.
No one who has had anything to do with Jennifer Lowe would deny that she has passion and guts and after this debacle she has more to prove than ever, not least that she is a capable, honest and worthwhile contributor to the community she has called home since she was a child.
Although a polarising figure in the rough and tumble world of local politics, Mrs Lowe has consistently argued that her desire to be an effective and transparent community servant was the thing that drove her before it all turned pear-shaped in 2009 when the first allegations about her conduct at Worn Gundidj were aired.
It has been a long and arduous slog since then, an emotional and debilitating journey that privately has left her in pieces. Despite this, supported by her husband and his family, she has tapped a deep well of strength, dignity and self-belief. She had to just to survive, or perhaps it’s just what you do when you know you’re innocent.
It remains to be seen whether she will stand for the city council again at the next election (or even aim higher) as she begins the task of rebuilding her reputation and name.
The council chamber may be a different beast the next time around, one where she might feel that she can make some headway. We will have to wait and see with another couple of years of this council left to run.
The unresolved and bitter nature of the chamber during Mrs Lowe’s last term might have seemed at times to be almost as controversial and as bruising as the criminal proceedings she faced and she may well think it’s not worth the agony again, because agonising it most definitely can be.
Then again, Jennifer Lowe has suffered through the worst that her enemies have thrown at her and come out the other side, down but by no means out.