Monday, 27 June 2011

An injustice of justice

Capital punishment is no longer used in the UK. It was abolished in 1965 in favour of life sentences for major criminals. Nowadays, life imprisonment doesn't actually mean life. It means maybe 25 years in prison or an earlier release for good behaviour. For a younger criminal, for example a 20 year old, after 25 years they will only be 45. Not too old to rebuild a new life for themselves. Is that really a fitting punishment for murderers, rapists?

Recently, a man present at the torture and abuse of a small child (Baby P) was let out of prison after just four years, demanding a new identity and cosmetic surgery to change his image so he couldn't be recognised. In the same week it emerged that a teenager was to be extradited to the US and face up to 70 years in prison for hacking into companies through the internet. Is there a flaw in the British Justice System? One that is allowing dangerous people back onto the streets, never having served a punishment that fitted their crime?

A well known case where justice seems not to have not been served is the case of James Bulger. In Feburuary 1993, at just 2 years old, James was led away from his mother in a Bootle shopping centre by two young boys, Robert Thompson and Jon Venables. The two boys, both 10 at the time (who were truanting from school in order to scout out a child who they originally planned to take to the main road and push into oncoming traffic) took the little boy to a railway track where they violently abused and tortured him and eventually murdered him, leaving him on the track where he was then cut in half by a train. He was found two days later. The boys were caught and spent the rest of their childhood in custody until they turned 18. They were then released and given new identities in order to start their lives without being recognised. The defenceless two year old that they brutally murdered, was not able to grow up and start his life. For those of you unfamiliar with the case, you can read about it in more detail here (Warning: Contains upsetting content)

It does beg the question, how these two monsters were allowed to be sent back out into the world to carry on with their lives. Many argue that the years they spent in custody will have helped reform them so they were no longer a danger to society and, being children at the time of their crime, they could not only not be held fully responsible for their actions. And also that, as children they would not be able to understand the procedure of an adult court and that it would be "intimidating" and a breach of their human rights. I fully disagree.

Taking Venables and Thompson as an example, they had difficult upbringings. They were neglected and abused by their parents. Which is sad in any case, to know a child is not being cared for. This happens to many children up and down the country every single day. None of them find it appropriate to then go out and murder somebody "for fun." Perhaps, if Venables and Thompson had not have been subject to this behaviour from their parents then little James Bulger would still be alive. Witnessing violence as children will have contributed to their actions that day. But that aside, there is no justification for what they did. They may have only been 10 years old, but both calculated and plotted to abduct a child that day in order to kill them. That is not the mind of an abused child. That is the mind of a very sick and disturbed individual. They knew exactly what they were doing, it was not an accident and it didn't just happen. And, in my opinion, any child that can fully comprehend the fact that they were going to pick up a child and murder them in a calculated way (they had stolen various items from shops that day which they then used in the torture of James) can most definitely understand the necessary court procedures.

Sticking with this story for a while longer, the boys who were released at 18 and were given new identities, costing the tax payer millions, have in fact, not been fully reformed. Part of their parole included specific rules which they had to abide by or they would be taken back to prison. These included staying out of the Merseyside area and not contacting any member of James Bulger's family. Robert Thompson has managed to keep himself to himself. However, Jon Venables has not. Not only has he breached his parole a number of times, including having been over to Merseyside to watch football matches, but he has also been back in prison on charges of child pornography in which his computer was found to have numerous indecent images of children. Today it was announced that his appeal for parole has been rejected as he is considered a danger to society (although previously he had not been even after he had murdered a child yet these pornographic images were what was needed for them to realise this) so he is still currently in prison. But when he does get out, no doubt he will be given yet another new identity, paid for by the good old British tax payers who have the joy of knowing that another dangerous criminal is now settled in the community.

Did these boys get enough of a punishment that can justify what they did? No, absolutely not. Do I think, they should have been given an indefinite life sentence? Yes, I do. Do I think that they deserved to die for their crime, since they ended the life of a person? No, I do not. And this is why.

For all major offenders (I'm talking about rapists, murderers, child abusers etc. Not petty criminals like drug dealers or shoplifters who would not recieve it anyway) I strongly oppose the death penalty. Because, not only do I not believe in an eye for an eye, but because death is an easy way out. To be killed for your crime means to have your life cut short, the person will never be made to truly pay for what they did. Because to truly pay for your crime, I believe that being locked up in a cell for the rest of your life with nothing but your thoughts and a wooden slab for a bed is what is needed. When the death penalty was abolished it was replaced with life sentences. But we hear all the time in the news about child abusers being given 5 years in prison or murderers being given 18 years. That's nothing. Whatever happened to a punishment fitting a crime? If you take a life, you should have your life taken. Not physically, but mentally. You shouldn't be able to come skipping out of prison after 6 years of being inside for rape and get to carry on living your life as if nothing happened. Because let's face it, these kinds of people don't have a conscience and so they would hardly be kept awake at night, remembering what they did.

So what's the solution? Stop going easy on criminals. It's very simple. When you can get less time in jail for abusing a child than you can for filming in cinemas for piracy use then you know that there is something not right. Of course, the longer people stay in prison for, the more that taxpayers have to fork out for them. But would you rather pay a little extra tax but know that seriously dangerous criminals are behind bars and will not get out? Being imprisoned for life is not a breach of human rights. It seems that the victims of these crimes have their human rights forgotten. What about James Bulger's human rights, who was taken away from his mother and violently murdered? The human rights of a woman who is attacked and raped on her way home from a night out? The human rights of a 5 month old baby who is never fed and is beaten on a daily basis? But of course, we couldn't possibly go against the rights of the people who take away the rights of others? People who commit vicious and disgusting crimes are not humans. They are, quite frankly, monsters, and only deserve to be treated as such. They should be locked in a dirty cell and the key should be thrown away. There is no need to stoop to their level and have them killed. Because of course, not everyone who is convicted of a crime is always guilty. At least there is the opportunity of reprievel for someone who is found innocent, unlike if they're killed and there is no way back. 

In 1950, when capital punishment was still practised in the UK, a man named Timothy Evans was sentenced to hang after being convicted of the murder of his wife and baby daughter. A few years later, it emerged that Evans' neighbour Timothy Christie was a serial killer and had murdered a number of women, including his wife, and hidden their corpses around his house.After 16 years, an official inquiry was made and it was found that Christie was in fact the person who had murdered Evans' wife and daughter. This is one of a number of reasons why the death penalty should not be brough back as a form of punishment.

Life should always mean life. For Venables and Thompson, they were just lucky that their crime occured when it did. When they were too young to be given a real life sentence. But even if they had been 20 years older when they had commited it, they still would not have been made to live out the rest of their days in prison. When somebody takes the life of someone, whether it be physically such as with murder or emotionally such as with rape, they should never be given back the opportunity to carry on with theirs. Where is the justification for the victims? The victim's family? Denise Fergus, mother of James Bulger, has to carry on living, knowing what happened to her little boy and that the people responsible are allowed to walk about freely, when her son has had that choice taken away from him. The countless families of other murder victims, who have to live knowing that soon, the murderer will be back out and carrying on with their lives with no regards to the lives they have destroyed. It is against the human rights of all of those people that seem to be neglected because, for some reason, we are too busy trying to protect the criminals and not busy enough trying to protect the people who really need protecting.

James Bulger (16 March 1990-12 Feburary 1993)

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