Category Archives: murderers

Britain’s festival of disorder

Poor man! If only he had been given the opportunity of rehabilitation and repentance, perhaps he wouldn’t have taken the cyanide

In Britain, one of the effects of the abolition of the death penalty has been downward pressure on prison sentences. Your average British murderer, Dalrymple explains,

serves 15 years before release. His life sentence is for life only in the sense that, for the rest of his days, he may be recalled to prison if it is thought that he is misbehaving or breaking the conditions of his release.

In one per cent of cases,

a life sentence may mean permanent incarceration without possibility of release, though the European Court of Human Rights (that giver of lessons to the world) has ruled that such a sentence breaches fundamental human rights because it does not allow for the possibility of repentance or rehabilitation. It goes to show how lacking in realism, imagination and compassion the ECHR is.

Dalrymple points out that punishment has to be roughly proportional to the gravity of the crime, but

if murder attracts only 15 years’ imprisonment de facto, what sentences can be meted out to those who commit lesser, but still serious, crimes? Moreover, the charge of murder is often reduced to the lesser crime of manslaughter, in which sentences – as a consequence – are often derisory.

It is scarcely any wonder, he says, that Britain

has gone from being a well-ordered, non-violent, law-abiding society to being a society with the highest rate of violent crime in Western Europe.

He notes that

it was not inevitable that the abolition of the death penalty should have had this effect, if conviction for murder had carried a sentence of incarceration for life. But in order for this to have been the case, society as a whole, and the governing class in particular, including intellectuals, would have had to have sufficient faith in a moral authority to impose it. The abolition itself, in my view justified per se, was — in the manner in which it was carried out — a symptom in itself of the decline in that faith.

The governing class and intellectuals

believed only in their own moral authority to defy the ‘primitive’ wishes and apprehensions of the unlettered majority. They replaced the moral view of human existence by the sociological and psychological one, with all its explaining and explaining away.

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.

The hackneyed all-our-thoughts formula

Usman Khan

Dalrymple points out that whenever high-profile murders take place in the West,

someone in high authority is bound to say something like All our thoughts are with the victims (or the relatives of the victims).

He points out that

this is a lie, and by no means a noble one: all the high authority’s thoughts ought not to be with the victims or with the relatives of the victims. The authority ought rather to be thinking of whether there are means to prevent similar attacks in the future. It is perfectly possible to express decent condolences without resort to obvious and insincere exaggeration.

Enfeebled England

Sinking further into moral squalor

Why is Britain so lacking in moral confidence? (In this, it is only the worst case of a malaise in the West.) Dalrymple points to the expansion of tertiary education, especially in non-technical subjects. He notes that large numbers of people

have been educated in injustice and grievance studies, which have had for their effect the dissolution of a sense of human beings as agents rather than victimised vectors of forces.

If murderers and other violent criminals behave in the way that they do,

it must be (sociology, psychology, and criminology teach) because of social forces beyond their control. Hence it is unjust to inflict punishment upon them. Punishment can only be justified where a man is a free agent and could have done otherwise; since he is never a free agent and could never have done otherwise, punishment is never justified. Millions now believe this.

Pusillanimity in the face of violent crime

Kitsch radicalism

‘The photo that adorns a thousand tea-towels, watch faces, boxes of fudge, covers of exercise books, and other products of radical kitsch. Che started as a murderer and ended as Mickey Mouse.’

The tragedy of penological deflation

In 2003, Dalrymple writes, the ‘rock’ exponent Bertrand Cantat

brutally did to death the actress Marie Trintignant, with whom he was having an affair. He beat her so severely that she died not long afterwards of her head injuries. He was under the influence of alcohol and cannabis at the time.

For this terrible crime, in which there were no mitigating circumstances, Cantat

spent four years in prison, a derisory punishment.

Dalrymple asks:

If you have to serve only four years for such a crime, what punishment can a lesser, but nonetheless serious, crime attract, assuming that the principle of proportionality of punishments has still to apply?

Jargon that passes for science

Dalrymple writes that he has given evidence in cases

in which various psychiatrists have sought to explain (or is it excuse?) murderers because of their difficult childhoods, poor upbringing, bad education, and so forth.

He has watched

relatives of victims foully done to death squirm with pain and disgust as feeble exculpations of the culprits are offered in the language not so much of science as of jargon.

An all-round bad egg

Dalrymple writes that John Donald Merrett, when a young man, shot his mother dead and forged her cheques. He lived to kill another day: his wife and mother-in-law, more than a quarter of a century later. He made a living as a smuggler and swindler.

Why we read and re-read the doctor-essayist

Dalrymple is identified by an acute English journalist (also a skilled and powerful debater), Peter Hitchens, as

one of the greatest men of our age [second item in Hitchens’s 6th August 2017 column in the UK newspaper the Mail on Sunday].

For decades, Hitchens reminds us, Dalrymple

worked in a major British jail, listening to the excuses and self-justifications of people who had done terrible things to others, and to themselves.

Refusing to follow fashion,

and genuinely concerned for these often very sad characters, he treated them as adults, urging them to take responsibility for their actions instead of offering excuses for them. Many, who had come to despise authority, were glad to be up against someone they could not easily fool.

Hitchens’s guess is that many of those Dalrymple treated

benefited greatly from his tough-minded approach. He didn’t fill them with pills or substitute one drug for another. His observations of the way heroin abusers feign terrible discomfort, after arriving in prison and being deprived of their drug, is both funny and a badly needed corrective to conventional wisdom.

All this, Hitchens notes, is to be found in the Dalrymple collection The Knife Went In (2017).

The title, a quotation from an actual murderer, is an example of the way such people refuse to admit they had any part in the crimes they commit. The knife somehow got there and went into the victim, by itself. It is a series of short, gripping real-life stories in which he recounts his experiences with our broken, lying penal system with its fake prison sentences and its ridiculous form-filling as a substitute for action.

The book is mainly about prisons and crime, but, says Hitchens,

it tells a deep truth about the sort of society we have become. It is one in which almost nobody is, or wants to be, responsible for anything.

Hitchens concludes:

A future historian, a century hence, will learn more about 21st-century Britain from this book than from any official document.

Laxity of the criminal justice system

Dalrymple points out that the murder of a policeman by Karim Cheurfi, a Muslim terrorist, on the Champs-Elysées is another illustration of

the laxity of the French (and British) criminal justice system — a laxity which demonstrates a corrosive lack of cultural self-confidence.

An article in the Paris newspaper the Monde, Dalrymple notes,

said that the case of Cheurfi was bound to reignite debate on the ‘laxity’ (sic) of the French criminal justice system. It is symptomatic of the problem that the word laxity appeared as ‘laxity’, as though juridical negligence were a wild allegation, a figment of someone’s febrile imagination.

Dalrymple notes that people like Cheurfi

view themselves as victims rather than as perpetrators. According to an acquaintance, Cheurfi believed that the police had ruined his life because they had been instrumental in the long imprisonment that had left him unable to marry or have children at the usual age. After all, at the time, he had only stolen a car with a gun in his possession, and if the police had left him alone, no one would have been hurt.