Once upon a time there was a cute little toddler called James. Twenty years ago, 1993, yesterday he died.
He was just an anonymous little boy, and would have probably grown to be just ordinary at school, and with luck, would have had a fairly ordinary job, married and had ordinary children, and just chugged along being anonymous as most of us are, as he enjoyed his uneventful life and grew older and then eventually died.
Yes, it’s possible that he might have not remained anonymous and ordinary, and he may have had something important to contribute to society and mankind. Some of us may well have ended up having heard of him, or using the advance in science he’d contributed to, or voted for him to allow him to represent us and make this country a better place. But, there would be no shame if James had lived his anonymous life as an ordinary bloke.
However, James never got a chance to be anonymous or ordinary. Instead, he was taken from his mother, and bewildered and unable to comprehend what was happening to him, James was subjected to a few hours of a catalogue of absolutely awful and unforgivable torture. He was methodically and disgustingly tortured to an eventual death. The cold and extensive details of James’ slaughter were so awful that grown men like me openly wept.
Poor James’ lot in his short life was not to be anonymous and ordinary, but to become famous and immortalised as a murder victim. A victim of such terrible acts of brutality that the details were often not fully reported by the media of the day.
To confound and compound the horror, poor James’ torturers were two ten year old boys.
As people on the outside looking in we asked how on earth should we deal with this? We were not the family or connected with James or his murderers, yet we knew it was not right, felt the confusion and the revulsion and got caught up in the truly terrible emotions of the moment.
We suffer our own bewilderment to this day because James was ritually killed by children. Reactions range from the liberal-minded wets blaming society and trying to intellectualise about it, through to the lynch-mob wanting to string the murderers up there and then.
What we did end up doing was sentencing the murderers to ‘life’. James’ sentence, of course, was death
His sentence was passed down to him by the two murderers who decided to be judge, jury and executioner. James, of course, had done nothing wrong to be sentenced to death for. The brutal torture before his death is not something any civilised society hands down as part of a death sentence, and yet that’s what his executioners performed on him. In exchange for James’ death we gave his murderers ‘life’.
To a lot of the more naive of us, since we are no longer allowed to execute murderers, ‘life’ means putting the murderers away from society forever, and our eye-for-an-eye blood lust has to be satisfied with that.
However, what we don’t realise is that the custodial system doesn’t actually work like that. A judge may well pass down a sentence, but the custodial system ignores it and makes up its own rules regardless of what the judge and the law may have said. The ‘life’ that the murderers were given was a ‘life’ of one-on-one education and special attention and training for 8 years, followed by a clean slate, a brand new identity, and a guiding hand to leave the custodial system completely and go out and become ordinary and anonymous like James would probably have loved to have been.
A society that feels it needs to reward murderers with all this advantage over James has got to be sick, surely? Are we really ok with telling ten year olds that capturing and slowly torturing to death a toddler is ok, and as a reward we’ll give them special schooling and opportunities that they wouldn’t have had if they’d not murdered and had instead just tried to be ordinary and anonymous?
It’s no wonder then that when one of the now advantaged murderers did something a couple of years ago to abuse his extra special opportunity to become ordinary and anonymous, that we reacted in a haze of anger and confusion. We are confused and feel betrayed after all we’ve done to give him the opportunities he removed forever from James.
Ok, the lynch-mob restart their call for instant blood-lust gratification, but more worryingly the clucking ruling classes and liberal elite start their inane excuses and, to my horror, “feeling sorry for” the murderer who has failed to be ordinary and anonymous.
Feeling sorry for him? What a sick and perverse society we live in, when we feel sorry for murderers who have failed to take advantage of everything extra they’ve been given as a ‘reward’ for their crime.
Whether this ‘feeling sorry’ comes from priests from within the Catholic church – an organisation that has only in recent years started to admit that extensive sexual abuse of children might be a bit wrong – or from the ruling liberal elite and middle classes, it has got to be very very wrong.
Surely, the murderer was given his golden opportunity, his wonderful once in a lifetime advantage to be everything he’d not allowed James to be, but he blew it. It doesn’t matter why or how he blew it, but that’s got to be it. The Hundreds of Thousands of Pounds our society wasted on ‘rewarding’ James’ murderers has been money thrown away for nothing. It could have been used to help those who more properly deserved it and had demonstrated they were the ones who deserved it by not torturing toddlers to death.
Sadly, we are obsessed with giving criminals advantages over the victims, and this has to stop. If there is another victim of one of James’ murderers (we will not allowed to be told, because they have new identities), then society and the custodial system certainly will be to blame. We must learn that ‘life’ has to mean a ‘life’ behind bars for life, if not for James’ sake then for the sake of the next victim of one of James’ muderers.
We, and I mean ‘we’, could have prevented that.