In any case, it is precisely to avoid the sway of violent emotions, understandable in those who have had the most terrible or terrifying experiences, that we have the law which is supposed to be impartial. Both the desire for vengeance and sentimentality - not so far apart as is often supposed - are a threat to the rule of law. The perpetrators of the murder of Mr ap Rhys deserved long sentences (in my view prison in perpetuity without possibility of release) not because he was a nice man with a brilliant future, and not because they were cowards who wouldn't square up to him under the Queensbury rules, but because they killed a man in cold blood without any excuse or mitigating circumstance, were likely to do something similar again if at liberty to do so, and needed for society's sake to be made a very clear example of. The character of the victim, or the effect his death had on his close friends and relatives who survived him, was quite beside the point.I agree. Media reporting on violent crimes also highlights this sentimentality. Thus an honor student, father of three or grandmother is struck down before his or her time. But it shouldn't matter if the victim is none of those things but rather a chronic underachiever, a deadbeat dad or a sterile old crone. Of course family and friends of a particular victim feel their loss more acutely than the rest of us, but punishing the perpetrators shouldn't rely on the popularity of their victims.
Dec 13, 2006
'The Diana-ification of the criminal justice system'
Theodore Dalrymple argues against victim impact statements, which have recently become admissible in UK courts.