Past Crimes

Should people who committed serious crimes a long time ago be severely punished or handsomely rewarded?  Or do we let sleeping dogs lie if a long time has elapsed and they no longer pose a threat?

This has been a week of contrasts.  On the one hand, an ex-gangster and a man convicted of theft, conspiracy and fraud get honoured in the new years honours list.  On the other hand, two men who were once violent thugs involved in a murder get maximum jail sentences.

So whose crimes happened a long time ago when the criminals were juveniles and less than half their present age?  That’s right, it’s the two who got convicted.

Hmmm ….

Lest anyone take this the wrong way, I’m not suggesting the two murderers should’ve been let off.  Just noting the contrast.

Posted on January 7, 2012, in uk. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I think, if you put the contrast in these terms to a home office bigwig, they’d say something like: we believe in the possibility of reformation and redemption, and we’re happy to recognise and occasionally even reward those who have gone far enough along that road. Whereas if the criminals remain unrepentant, they remain criminals.

    Of course that position has flaws, being wide open to abuse from both sides (above and below). But on the whole, it’s not the worst philosophy.

  2. Yes, it’s not automatically nonsense.

    But consider the hypothetical case where those two teenage murderers had turned their lives around, maybe not merely become good members of society, but devoted their entire adult lives to good works. Could they have got the new years honours instead of, or even as well as, the prison sentences? I’d presume the answer to be a firm No, because the circumstances of that particular murder demanded scapegoats no matter what. Circumstances arising not in the murder itself, but in the police response to it, and public reaction to that police response.

  1. Pingback: Disrepute « niq's soapbox

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