25 August 2009

Mike Peatman on Megrahi

Mike Peatman has posted on the release of the convicted Lockerbie bomber. I've posted on this before, and last night I listened to an extended piece on Radio 4 whilst driving through 6 (yes 6) sets of roadworks on the M62 (down to 1 lane every time!). I agree with much of what Mike says, and will make a couple more points of my own.
  • It's a shame we'll never have the chance to see an appeal brought. Many people who have reviewed the evidence are not convinced about it and there is also new evidence to be tested. Surely it would provide a better sense of justice for those affected to have the right people convicted and punished for the crime.
  • As there will not be any re-examination of the evidence, the existing conviction stands. As far as the law is concerned, Megrahi is still guilty.

Megrahi's release (to me) has nothing to do with either of the above issues. He is dying. He is no longer seen as a threat to society. He was being detained far from his home and his family. The only reasons to keep him in detention are that a) we think he still needs to be punished, and b) the victims and their families (and some politicians seeking to cash in) aren't happy with his release.

My belief is that prison as punishment is a fundamentally flawed model. I know many will disagree, but I don't see what right I have to inflict pain (to put it in a basic form) on somebody because of the pain they have inflicted on me. We tell our children that 2 wrongs don't make a right, and we aspire to 'turn the other cheek', but then we go and enshrine the principle of revenge into our legal systems. We even talk about someone's debt to society; we say that 'you caused society x pain, so we have to cause you x pain in return'. Otherwise they are in a position of debt. How on earth can we quantify pain in this way?
I'm reminded of the famous Gandhi quotation, 'An eye for an eye, and soon the whole world is blind'.

I do think that we have to respect the victims and their families, but we have to accept that those closest to the crime are probably not in the best position to decide on what happens to the offender. That's one of the reasons we have a legal system - to lend some objectivity to the process.

All in all, I think the right decision was made, though I think we should have insisted on a low key repatriation. That, however, is a PR/diplomatic issue; Not a moral/legal one.

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