Lock ’em up and throw away the key?

One way to test how high-brow someone is as follows: ask them what do they think of, when they hear the name “Gilbert and Sullivan”?  Do they think of a 1970’s pop singer with a slightly nasal voice (“Oh Clare”), or do they think of a pair of Victorian operetta writers?

It was Gilbert and Sullivan who coined the expression:

Let the punishment fit the crime.

Yesterday, while gradually regaining consciousness, I read two news stories on the news.bbc.co.uk website.

  1. Harry Roberts has been released from prison after serving 48 (forty-eight) years for the murder of three police officers.
  2. Ched Evans, a professional footballer, is due to start training again with his old football club, after serving about three years for rape.

So what’s the connection between the two cases?  Both releases have sparked howls of protest, publicised in the media.

My view?  I’m neither a member of the “hang ’em and flog ’em brigade,” nor a tree-hugging Guardianista.  My views against the death penalty have hardened over the years, especially since the early 90’s, when a multitude of miscarriage of justice cases came to light.  All these innocent people would have faced the hangman’s noose.  Feel free to google:

  • Birmingham Six
  • Guildford Four
  • Cardiff Three

I do, however, support LWOP.

  • Life Without Parole
  • Life means life
  • You will die behind bars

One of the criteria for LWOP is:

  • Was this the murder of police officer during the course of their duty?

Another criterion is:

  • Was this a mulitple murder?

But isn’t all life equally sacred?

For sure.  But a judge, on behalf of society, must assess the aggravating factors of a murder.

Was it the murder of a child?

Was there extra violence involved, eg torture, firearms?

The murder of a police officer is one of these criteria.  Harry Roberts shot down three of them.

The police place themselves in danger and are the embodiment of law and order.  To kill a police officer is therefore to aggravate the nature of the murder.  At the risk of sounding trite, it’s sticking two fingers up at the law and society.  There therefore needs to a a greater level of deterrent and punitive value, what the judges call “retribution and revenge.

Now I perhaps need to “declare an interest.”  My former room-mate at university served twelve years for murdering his girlfriend.  But that’s another story, folks.

Harry Roberts’ tariff (aka “minrec”: minimum recommended term of imprisonment) was 30 years, which would have meant his earliest release date being eighteen years ago.  However, Roberts has never expressed remorse.  He seems to view the officers’ deaths as an occupational hazard, what’s the big deal?

Further, he has been involved in threatening members of the public while on day release from open prison.  That was in recent years and was hardly likely to endear him to the Parole Board deciding his suitability for release.  Now, at the age of 78, he has been released into society.  Will he be the OAP next door, planting his vegetables in the local allotment?  Something is victims, of course, were never allowed to do.  No football in the park with grandkids for them.

Football.  Footballers.  Footballer: Ched Evans.  Convicted of rape.  He did his time, as sentenced by a learned judge.  Now he’s training with his team again.  This has caused mass protests against his resuming his life and normality again.

Here I’ll stick my neck on the block.  We, as a society, can take two alternative views.

  1. Cut it off, lock ’em up and throw away the key.
  2. Accept that the sentence is the punishment, and notwithstanding necessary restrictions, allow the offender to restart their life.

I cannot help thinking that much of the indignation about Ched Evans’ return to playing comes from a desire to show how tough some people are on crime.  Footballers are role models?  Are they really?

Murder and rape are heinous crimes.  Yet in all cases, the sign of a civilised, law-governed society, is that we let the punishment fit the crime, whether that be LWOP or “only” a couple of years in prison.

Have a jurisprudential day, won’t you!


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