“Judge not…” is a wonderful moral dictum for an ideal, sinless life. But I don’t think either Jesus or Matthew meant for it to extend to British courts of justice. Of injustice, is more like it.
Here’s another case in point. A drunk thug named Steven Allan was staggering through Covent Garden when he decided to call a friend.
At the same moment Paul Mason, a wealthy banker and godfather to five children, stepped out of The Ivy, a private club where he had just had dinner with friends. Having put one of them into a taxi, he phoned his Uber.
The two mobiles lit up at the same time and Allan’s few brain cells tried to mesh. That doomed process yielded a conclusion, to him the only possible one under the circumstances. The thug decided that the middle-aged banker must have stolen his friend’s telephone.
That was a call to action. Allan violently yanked Mason’s phone out of his hand. Thinking he was being robbed, the latter tried to walk away. Allan would have none of that.
He attacked Mason from behind and violently beat him up. A few days later the victim, much beloved of his friends and family, died in hospital.
What happened next proves yet again, if any more proof were necessary, that the law is no longer just “a ass”, as Mr Bumble described it. It’s a much more vicious animal, one plunging its dripping claws into what’s left of our civility.
The incident was caught on camera. Allan was arrested and charged with grievous bodily harm with intent (his victim was still fighting for his life). And then he was locked up… Just kidding. Where do you think you are, a country ruled by just law?
No, he was let out on bail, presumably with a warning not to kill anyone else while awaiting trial. Then Paul Mason died, and Allan was charged with murder.
In Britain, a conviction on that charge calls for a mandatory life sentence. So is that what Allan got? Be serious. Didn’t I tell you to remember where you are?
His case was plea bargained down to manslaughter. Still, the maximum penalty for that is the same as for murder, life in prison. But by now you know not to ask silly questions.
Of course, that’s not what Allan got. He was sentenced to three years, nine months. With the time already spent in custody he’ll probably be out in just over a year.
His defence was based on his being drunk and agitated at the time. Oh well, that’s all right then. Whenever you’ve had a few and feel agitated, go out and murder a stranger. You’ll get off with a slap on the wrist.
One doesn’t know where to begin. Starting from the end, being drunk should be an aggravating circumstance, not a mitigating one.
If drink can turn a man into a feral animal, it’s his responsibility to control his intake. If he doesn’t, that means he doesn’t mind turning into a feral, murderous animal. In that case, such sociopathic anomie makes whatever he does worse, not better.
Then the very notion of plea bargaining is morally suspect in all crimes, but especially in violent ones. Any wanton taking of a human life is murder. If in some extremely rare cases genuine extenuating circumstances exist (being drunk and agitated doesn’t qualify), enough to change the charge to manslaughter, the punishment should still be commensurate with the value of the life taken.
Plea bargaining divorces law from morality, and that’s an unbearably ruinous divorce. And morality is dealt another blow by the automatic assumption that a convict will seldom serve more than half his sentence.
Both travesties of justice are sold as fiscally pragmatic measures. Court proceedings are expensive and so is keeping a criminal in custody.
So if someone commits, say, a murder, money becomes a decisive factor. Instead of lasting a few days, the trial could stretch to many weeks. The CPS may also have to call in many expert witnesses who don’t come cheap. Throw in the cost of keeping the convict in prison for decades, and the sums speak for themselves.
It’s so much more cost-effective to declare urbi et orbi that murder is no longer murder, robbery is no longer robbery, assault is no longer assault. They are whatever the state can afford.
The amorality of that is staggering. Western law turns into an Asian bazaar where haggling about price is the norm.
The only way to reduce the cost of justice without destroying society in the process is to have less crime. And passing derisory, risible sentences for the most awful of crimes is guaranteed to have exactly the opposite effect.
This is a gift that keeps on giving or, less colloquially, a vicious circle. The state haggles the cost of crime down, deterrence becomes weak to nonexistent, crime goes up as a result, so does the cost of justice, the courts have a stronger economic incentive to pass lenient sentences or none. And so on, until what used to be civilised society turns into a jungle ruled by predators red in tooth and claw.
By implicitly declaring that Paul Mason’s life is worth little more than a year in prison, the court in fact stated that a human life is worthless. That betokens a moral catastrophe for which it’s hard to find any parallels.
The sovereign and equal value of each life is the cornerstone of Western civility. The state and its courts largely exist to assert that value, along with inviolability of personal property. When they deliberately ignore that sacred responsibility, they lose their legitimacy.
They become instruments of oppression, and it doesn’t matter one jot that the people vote their oppressors into office. Tyranny is tyranny, whether it’s of the majority or the minority. If you don’t believe me, ask Paul Mason’s bereaved and infuriated family.