Monday, 8 October 2012

Rant Ahoy, on crimes and punishments.

As I sit here, a candle burns in my window, as requested by the parents of April Jones to mark a week since she disappeared. I have literally shed tears over the fate of this little girl.

That said, I will not be joining the social media clamour for Mark Bridger's hide, nor for the reinstatement of the death penalty.
Mark Bridger, for one thing, has not been tried let alone convicted. He cried before magistrates today when he appeared in court to have his charges put to him. Was he crying out of remorse for what he did? Out of fear of those gathered to hurl abuse at the prison van? Out of the desperation of an innocent man who's terrified he's going to jail for something he didn't do? A cynical ploy to throw people off? Self-pity? I don't know. Only he really knows. Only he knows if he's guilty too, at this point.
As for the death penalty, well to quote Neil Gaiman -
[I believe]  that while all human life is sacred there’s nothing wrong with the death penalty if you can trust the legal system implicitly, and that no one but a moron would ever trust the legal system.

I'm 36 years old. I have served on two juries in my life, once in Scotland and once in England. Both cases were serious but in totally different spheres, one was GBH and firearms offences and the other was a child abuse case. Here's the thing about trials. Your job is not to judge the defendant, your job is to evaluate the evidence and jump whichever way seems most convincing. But people are people and they do judge the defendant. You watch them in the dock while key evidence is heard to see if you can catch a clue in their expression, you are swayed by emotional witnesses, if one of the lawyers isn't very likeable, that goes into the pot too. In both juries I've sat on, about one third were convinced going in that the defendant wouldn't be in the dock if they weren't guilty, another third have no trust in the police and are aching to find a reason to let the defendant go and the other third is made up of people who just want to go home, or who want to impress all the other jurors with their detective skills, or will just go along with the loudest voices because they don't like confrontation. Oh, and one who was convinced she was Demi Moore and someone would be coming round to threaten her into finding the defendant Not Guilty any moment now and therefore wouldn't be a part of any decision.
While I'm fairly confident that we reached the right conclusion in both cases, I wouldn't want to bet a life on it, would you?
No, I'm afraid I side very much with Blackstone in that I do believe it's better than 10 guilty men escape than one innocent should suffer.

And besides, look at all the countries with the death penalty in place. People are no less murdered, families are no less devastated, society is no less debased, justice is no more served.

What of the cost to the Taxpayer? That's often trotted out, why should The Taxpayer fund the incarceration of those convicted of terrible crimes? As one of The Taxpayers, I think I have as much right to answer that as anyone.
Prisons are not fun. They are not holiday camps. They may well feature TVs and games consoles, toilet blocks even! But they are not fun. That's why they have to lock the doors to keep people in there. Yes, it's not the 19th Century any more and we don't brutalise or mentally torture prisoners any more. Can't say I think that's a bad thing. Call me a wet liberal do-gooder if you like but I find it hard enough living in a world where people who commit such crimes exist, without demanding my home state behaves in an equally pathologically inhuman way. For one thing, if you start allowing the state to abuse it's captives, what's to stop them turning the same attitude to everyone else?
We as a society are supposed to be better than the people who break our laws. Or what's the point?


  1. Couldn't have said it better myself.

    Keep reading comments about how he Must be guilty because they charged him... Though we, as the public, have absolutely no idea about this as we are, the public - We're not the police or the man himself, we don't actually know. Hopefully, if he is the one who did it, then they have evidence, he'll be found guilty and he'll go to prison for a Very very long time.

    But until it's decided, 100%, that it is him, it might be worth people stopping assuming that it Must be him. Innocent people get arrested, it does happen.

  2. Oh dear another liberal do-gooder here too.

    Every time a case like this comes up I find myself having an argument at work against the usual "I said all along it was him, his eyes are weird" idiots.

    As for the death penalty, whenever people start shouting about hanging, I usually tell them to go and read about Stefan Kiszko (sp?)