Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Injustice For All

It's OK, I'm not going to make offensive remarks about recently deceased Tories today. Which doesn't mean I'm sorry about yesterday. My only regret is that I didn't get in a gag about writing a suicide note on toilet paper. Next time, perhaps. I still maintain that his type have no business being the Glastonbury Festival. There are clear demarcation lines: posh right wing twats have Wimbledon as their high profile Summer event as the the place to be 'seen'. Glastonbury is for an entirely different type of twat to be 'seen' at. But I digress, this time around I want to address more serious issues. Namely crime and punishment. Hell, let's go for broke and say justice - that's what I want to talk about. Our system of justice. Apparently it isn't working. At least, that's what the press would have you believe. There's too much emphasis on safeguarding the 'human rights' of the guilty. Did you know that last year £1.5 million or so of taxpayers' money was spent on compensation for prisoners? £1.5 million! Funny how the £260 million so far spent on bombing Libya didn't elicit the same tone of outrage from the press. But getting back to the point, not only is this a drop in the ocean as far as public expenditures are concerned, the specific cases receiving payouts given as examples didn't seem outrageous either. Being compensated for injuries sustained whilst in custody, or for being held (illegally) beyond your release date, don't seem unreasonable.

What sparked lat week's assault on the justice system was Levi Bellfield being found guilty of the murder of Milly Dowler. Now, even taking into account the terrible emotional impact of losing a loved one to violent crime, some of her relatives' reaction to the verdict were extreme. Her sister might well believe that 'justice' is "an eye for an eye", but thankfully the civilised world doesn't agree. Revenge and justice are two different things entirely. What the anger surrounding this trial seemed to stem from was the fact that Bellfield - already serving life for the murders of two young women - was allowed to mount any kind of defence at all, let alone be able to instruct his defence team to cross examine Milly Dowler's relatives. The fact it consequently became public knowledge that her father read bondage magazines and had been considered a suspect in the case meant that the system was 'broken'. These people were 'victims' and therefore shouldn't have to endure such trauma. The reality, of course, is that the system requires the accused be able to mount a defence, that he should be able to face his accusers. Like it or not, it is a perfectly legitimate defence tactic to highlight the fact that other suspects had been considered by the police. It doesn't mean that his 'rights' are being given more consideration than those of the victim and therefore the system needs to be changed.

It's worth considering that this 'broken' system, in this case, succeeded in returning a guilty verdict despite the absence of any confession, any forensic evidence conclusively linking the accused to the victim, or any witnesses. The whole case was purely circumstantial. All the prosecution could show was that Bellfield was living in the area where Milly Dowler was last seen at the time of her disappearance, and that he couldn't account for his movements during that period. Oh, and that he knew the area where her body was eventually found, (so do I, and probably tens of thousands of others). Now, I'm not saying there was a miscarriage of justice here, (if the press are worried about such things, they should look at the convictions of the poor and ill educated on the basis of dubious 'evidence' that happen every day in our courts). I'm just saying that even someone as loathsome as a convicted double murderer is entitled to a fair trial. Which means that his rights have to observed. As soon as we decide that certain 'types' aren't entitled to the same fundamental human rights as the rest of us, (which is what some sections of the press and senior politicians seem to be saying), then we're taking the first step on a dangerous road. A road whose destination we've seen before: Dachau, Belsen and Auschwictz. No, I'm not being over dramatic. It's all very well saying that 'it couldn't happen here' - believe me, societies tend to sleepwalk into such journeys.

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