Category Archives: justice

The British state places little value on lives criminally extinguished

Three men, who lodged together in a flat, allowed another man to stay with them, then beat him to death. The kind of things that prosecutors and police say about such murders shows, writes Dalrymple,

how far they have absorbed and accepted the thugs’ view of the world.

The prosecutor said:

There was no good reason to kill the victim, but they were all very drunk, and maybe that is an explanation.

Dalrymple comments:

This implies that the perpetrators might have had a good reason to kill the victim. It also accepts that extreme violence is a pharmacological effect of alcohol, which it is not—unlike, say, incoordination.

A policewoman said:

This was a brutal attack on a man outnumbered by the other three, who didn’t stand a chance to defend himself. My thoughts remain with the victim’s family. I hope the verdict brings them a sense of justice and allows them to come to terms with this tragic and senseless death.

Dalrymple comments:

Her statement implies that if the murder had been more chivalrous—two against one, say, or man to man—it would have been markedly less heinous, and therefore that it was the cowardice, not the killing, that was so reprehensible. The hope that the verdict alone would bring a sense of justice to the family was surely absurd, unless it was followed by appropriate punishment—as almost certainly it would not be.

The prosecutor and the policewoman’s remarks

show how far both have come to accept that chivalrous and sensible murders are an inevitable part of British life.

White farmers turned Rhodesia into the breadbasket of the region

Living in Rhodesia in ’76, Dalrymple read up on the question of land distribution. He

came to the utopian (and false) conclusion that a reform in which white-owned commercial farmland was redistributed to African peasants could serve the cause of justice without reducing production.

The whites, he writes,

were 5% of the population and owned half the land (the better half too). The commercial farmers among them were a small minority of a small minority. There was no doubt that at the historic root of their ownership (not very far back in time, either) was the ruthless use of force and fraud. There was also no doubt that they had turned Rhodesia into the breadbasket of the whole region.

Land expropriation, when it came,

neither served justice nor preserved production. It was not the peasants who benefited from it, but the régime’s cronies.

Production fell 90%

and turned a country that had long been a magnet for immigration into one of mass emigration. The alternative to mass emigration was mass starvation. The land expropriation played its part in Zimbabwe’s hyperinflation, one of the most dramatic in history.

Populism in its most malign form

Black cab rapist: John Warboys

Plebiscitary justice

Dalrymple writes that if the public were allowed to have its say in the granting of parole,

it is difficult to conceive that any decisions would ever be taken that defied the strongly-expressed views of large numbers of people.

But

whether any such opinions were expressed at all would be a matter of chance or factors that have nothing to do with justice.

The belief of John Worboys’ victims that he would repeat his crimes if released

was no firmer evidence than his psychologists’ belief that he wouldn’t repeat them.

Presumption of guilt

Dalrymple was very unfavourably impressed by Tariq Ramadan on the single occasion that he met him.

He seemed to me the Jimmy Swaggart of Islamism, or at least the kind of man from whom one would certainly not buy a second-hand car. He had the affability of a carpet salesman in a souk, but without the charm; his affability struck me as sinister.

Ramadan is known for

his way of talking in one register to a certain kind of audience and in a completely different register to another kind of audience.

In order that that we, his readers, do not have to endure them, Dalrymple has actually read a couple of Ramadan’s books. They bear

the same relationship to scholarship as football commentary does to playing football.

Contempt of court

Without the scales: Crumlin Road Courthouse

Sans scales: Crumlin Road Courthouse

All the same, says Dalrymple, Ramadan’s arrest for alleged rape, and his subsequent questioning by the police, raises disturbing questions.

Here was a man who so far had been found guilty of nothing.

Ramadan was,

de facto, being described publicly as guilty.

Dalrymple points out that Ramadan has not been proved guilty. It is, he reminds us,

wrong that information intended to be damning should be paraded before the public prior to a proper trial and verdict.

Parole is disgraceful in theory and unworkable in practice

Justice should not be handed over to psychologists, social workers, or psychiatrists

The only thing parole is good for, writes Dalrymple, is

the employment of large numbers of officials engaged in pointless or fatuous tasks who might otherwise be unemployed.

The parole system is

inimical to the rule of law. To grant or withhold liberty on the basis of speculations, inevitably inaccurate, about what people might or might not do in the future is to reinstitute what amounts to a star chamber. A man is to be punished for what he has done beyond reasonable doubt, not for what some questionnaire or bogus calculation says he has a 70% chance of doing at some time in the future.

For this gross arbitrariness be avoided,

all sentences should be of a fixed length. If they are too short, so be it: they should be lengthened in future for similar crimes.

The European Court of Justice makes an ass of itself

Judicial populism

Dalrymple points out that

evidence based on post hoc ergo propter hoc, the fallacy employed by a thousand bar-room experts on every subject under the sun,

is now admissible in European courts. We are, he notes,

not far from the Azande belief that no death is natural, each death is caused by witchcraft.

Powerful idiocy

Dalrymple says that

an instinct of sympathy for the underdog is an admirable personal quality, no doubt,

but

it must be tempered by a regard for truth and justice, above all in courts of law.

The European Court of Justice

is certainly not the first to make an ass of itself, and it will not be the last. But idiocy is sinister when it is powerful idiocy.

The hope of a dilemma-free world is naïve where it is not power-hungry

screen-shot-2016-12-14-at-19-05-57The problem, says Dalrymple, with a nationalised health system’s

incontinent sharing of risk

is that

it deprives people of one possible motive for behaving responsibly. They believe, not without reason, that someone will always pick up the pieces for them at no cost to themselves. Irresponsibility thrives where there is no penalty for it.

He points out, however, that the problem with individualised insurance is that

it may place intolerable or unsustainable burdens on people through no fault of their own.

In short,

incontinent sharing of risk is unjust: too little sharing of risk is inhumane. Since both justice and humanity are desirable qualities, but not always compatible, now one, now the other, will be the more important; but the tension between them will remain.

Dalrymple writes:

That ethical decisions sometimes cannot be made that are indisputably correct, that entail no injustice or no inhumanity, is difficult for rationalists and utilitarians to accept. They want every division to be without remainder. They want a formula that will decide every question beyond reasonable doubt. They want a universal measure of suffering, so that the worth (in units of suffering averted) of every medical procedure can be known and compared. There is a cognitive hubris at play, according to which information will resolve all our dilemmas; and if our dilemmas have not been answered, it is only because we do not have enough information.

As for the doctor,

he cannot be so limitlessly compassionate as to deny patients’ responsibility where it exists, nor should he deny his patients his compassion by blaming them even when they are to blame.

Theodore is priceless

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New York: Horace Liveright, 1928

Faithful friend of the Soviet Union

Strolling in Amsterdam, Dalrymple finds that

there are some excellent second-hand bookshops.

At one of them he picks up

an irresistible book entitled Dreiser Looks At Russia. It ends with the unintentionally hilarious words:

Sleep well, Ilitch, father of a new and possibly — how shall we say? — world-altering force. How fortunate, you, its chosen if martyred instrument. How fortunate indeed.

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Theodore Dreiser: ‘a friend of the Soviet Union because he is a friend of Man, a champion of the democratic masses everywhere’

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Our Ilitch: ‘only the humanity of his spirit, enveloping aura-wise, could have evoked in those underprivileged millions the necessary faith in, if not an understanding of, his immense wisdom and human charity’

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Sleep well, Ilitch

Sleep of the righteous: Ilitch in his mausoleum

Charitable and wise

Ilitch the charitable and wise

'Chosen if martyred instrument of the world-altering force. How fortunate are the Russian masses!'

Ilitch the chosen one, the martyr

'Father of a new and possibly — how shall we say? — world-altering force'

Radiant Ilitch: ‘father of a new and possibly — how shall we say? — world-altering force’

‘Lenin, his Russia, the humanithy and justice which at last, and fully, he introduced into its government and statecraft, will succeed. The social illustration which he provided and which his associates and followers have since carried to its present great power and beauty will never be lost on future generations'

Power and beauty: ‘his Russia, the humanity and justice which at last, and fully, he introduced into its government and statecraft, will succeed. The social illustration which he provided and which his associates and followers have since carried to its present great power and beauty will never be lost on future generations’

The Russian masses, Dreiser wrote, ‘are determined never again to be enslaved. I do not doubt the outcome. Lenin, his Soviet empire, will triumph’

Ilitch triumphant: ‘the Russian masses are determined never again to be enslaved. I do not doubt the outcome. His Soviet empire will triumph’

When he was in Russia in 1927-28 in Russia Dreiser saw 'peasants and mechanics, women and men, kneeling here and there in worship, if not prayer, before Ilitch's candle-lighted bust, or standing uncovered with bowed heads before it, feeling him to be, as I assumed (and truly enough in my judgment), their saviour'

Ilitch the saviour: ‘I saw peasants and mechanics, women and men, kneeling here and there in worship, if not prayer, before his candle-lighted bust, or standing uncovered with bowed heads before it, feeling him to be, as I assumed (and truly enough in my judgment), their saviour’

Moral delicacy on Facebook

All we want is attention

All we want is attention

The internet and Facebook, Dalrymple notes,

are certainly bringing into prominence the intrinsic decency and sense of fair play of the English,

as well as their

refined use of language.

He cites the Facebook contributions that greeted the reduction of the sentence given to Lee Kilburn. Mr Kilburn, Dalrymple explains,

Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 11.58.04is a 42-year-old man of previously good character who was driven to distraction by children who constantly knocked on his door and ran away. His wife had just been diagnosed with a brain tumour. Mr Kilburn chased one of the children who had knocked on his door, and there are two versions of what happened: he says he ran after her, grabbed her and she fell, he fell on top of her and she broke her nose on the ground; she says he punched her and broke his nose.

Mr Kilburn admitted that he had lost his temper and was in the wrong, but denied that he had intended to injure the girl. The judges agreed that there were mitigating circumstances, freed him from jail and suspended his sentence. One response on Facebook to the judicial decision read as follows:

Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 11.59.15I’d go inside [i.e. be admitted to prison] just to wrap a quilt round his neck and stab the **** in his skull until his head is drained, no remorse, no mercy, dead! His cell would be covered in red.

Dalrymple comments:

Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 12.00.42The moral delicacy of the man who wrote this is evident from his refusal to spell out the four-letter word he wanted to use to describe Mr Kilburn. The line has to be drawn somewhere.

He asks:

Did people have sentiments such as the above before Facebook enabled them to be expressed anonymously in public, or did the possibility of expressing them in public anonymously call them forth?

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Rottrollen (detail), 1917. John Bauer. Pen and wash

 

One of the greatest achievements of our civilisation

Screen Shot 2015-09-09 at 08.33.25The presumption of innocence, writes Dalrymple,

does not apply only to those about whose physical violation of the law there remains some doubt. It applies to every accused person without ­exception.

Without this noble lie, justice

becomes the mere exercise of power, arbitrary and likely to be cruel.

It does not come naturally,

as looking at the faces of most of the accused in any law court will quickly persuade you. It takes considerable self-control to entertain the possibility that a man who looks so malign may yet be innocent.