Sometime back, we wrote about one of the most horrify ing crimes Britain had ever seen.
In the English town of Ipswich, five women had been senselessly murdered. All had one thing in common, apart from being victims of a sadistic maniacal killer — they were all hard drug users — addicted to narcotic substances like cocaine and heroine. And in order to fund their expensive but unbreakable habit, they all turned to the one thing that women in desperate situations have sometimes resorted to over the ages — selling themselves for cash.
Although all of them had once been normal young ladies — with a few even coming from privileged backgrounds — their situations had invariably led them to prostitute themselves just to support their addictions. Addictions that, in the end, eventually cost them their lives.
Just this week, justice was finally served on the perpetrator of this most heinous of crimes. A forklift truck operator by the name of Steve Wright has been found guilty by a jury of his peers, and is expected to be sentenced to life, without possibility of parole.
Or possibly — not.
Because in the United Kingdom today, the subject of crime has become what many hardliners and conservatives would call “kindergarten justice” – where criminals, including even the most violent ones, often get away with literally just slaps on the wrist.
Mr. Wright’s offence, however, is something else entirely.
In a show of anger that seems quite out of character with British stoicism, calls for the restoration of the death penalty have come from many quarters, including those who have in the past been quite liberal in terms of their attitudes towards criminals and their punishment.
In this instance, people feel that the gravity of the offences ought to merit something that is beyond the normal range of sentencing norms — a price that the perpetrator should feel is the just retribution for his act — and that should equate the callousness and cold-blooded nature of his crimes with the severity of the punishment. And in a lot of people’s minds, he ought to pay with his own life, just as he had taken those of his victims’.
Reinstating the death penalty in Britain, however, is a feat that is perhaps as difficult to achieve as abolishing the monarchy, though ironically it was the latter who had used the former to such effect in ensuring that its subjects stayed in line and obeyed their majesties’ every word and command.
Modern Britain, and indeed much of Western society, now believes that the answer to preventing crime is rehabilitating, not punishing the criminal. In today’s view of the criminal mind, the main motivations seem to be more circumstances beyond the criminal’s control, such as poverty, child abuse, social neglect, drug abuse, and mental illness.
There is very little room for believing that perpetrators are genuinely aware of their crimes, and take pleasure from committing it. In many people’s minds, the criminal is as much a victim of his crime as the actual victim is.
But could this view to the origins of crime really be sustainable? And could this attitude in fact deter criminals from perpetrating their dastardly deeds on the rest of us in society?
Time will tell. For in the West today, many are increasingly of the belief that society’s lax attitudes towards criminals and criminality is partly to blame for helping to fuel the rise in violent crime that seems to have become the biggest scourge of our time.
Published in the Sun Star Daily, Saturday, February 23, 2008