2002 November 17 Sunday
Theodore Dalrymple On Justice, Mercy, And Remorse

Theodore Dalrymple has written an excellent (in the Daily Telegraph - requires free registration) essay reflecting on recently deceased British murderer Myra Hindley:

But what of mercy? Surely it is always necessary to temper justice with mercy? Immense mercy was shown to Myra Hindley. If justice is about deserts (and it is difficult to see what else it might be about), then Myra Hindley never received justice: she was far too well treated for that. It is a common prejudice that if justice were to be done, the rigour of punishment must always be reduced, but nothing could be further from the truth.

The necessary restrictions on the rigour of punishments have nothing to do with the deserts of those receiving them: indeed it is difficult to imagine a punishment so harsh that it would have been unjust to Myra Hindley. No: punishments are kept within bounds not for the sake of justice, but to maintain the humanity of those administering them, and the civilisation of society in general. Myra Hindley received vastly better treatment than she deserved, and quite rightly so.

Dalrymple has excellent insights into the criminal mind and in my experience his essays are always worth reading.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2002 November 17 08:25 PM 


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