Blair and Salmond United!

“You can only go on expert advice given at the time”
Tony Blair when asked why Britain was engaged in the attack on Iraq.
“You can only go on expert advice given at the time”
Alexander Elliot Anderson “Alex” Salmond
BBC Radio 4 0816 Tuesday 21st July 2010 when asked why the Scottish government released Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi

Almost a year ago, shortly after the release of  al-Megrahi by the Scottish government, I wrote the following article for a British newspaper.

 What Price Freedom?       15th August 2009

This week’s news prompted me to ask myself the following two questions. Firstly, how many people currently in prison, serving varying sentences for whatever crime, are dying from a terminal condition? Secondly, based on two specific and high profile cases, how many of these should be released on compassionate grounds? Well, I thought, one needs to look at the paradox that is a criminal justice system and the word, ‘compassion’. When a felon is sentenced to a term of imprisonment then that judgement is the punishment to fit the crime, a period of incarceration that should be fully carried out to the satisfaction of societies need for justice. This is not a compassionate thing; this is the law in action. What’s that old expression? Oh yes, ‘if you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime’. That being the case, then no one should have a right to expect early release for whatever reason, whether it be for good behaviour, which I’ve never quite understood, (I thought that that was the point of the exercise) or the imminent prospect of death due to illness. After all it’s something that we can all expect to happen, whether we are in gaol or not. The forfeit of freedom is the penalty for serious crime, not the deprivation of any other basic human right. Death, like being born, is simply a fact. Compassion, on the other hand, is a unique human quality which allows us to feel for a victim of unfortunate circumstance and allows us to help them in any way we possibly can. The bereaved or the mentally or physically damaged people who, through no fault of their own, find themselves suffering immeasurably. This being the case, I concluded that there is no way that this compassion should be hijacked by our legal process in order to give early release to criminals. Ironically, today’s society often sees its existence reflected in the fictitious world of Hollywood, an example of which likens the recent jewel thieves in London as being akin to the ‘lovable rogues’ in ‘Oceans Eleven’. How desperately stupid is that. Yet this is no different from the Robin Hood persona granted to the great train robbers in August 1963. Hence I conclude that both Ronnie Biggs and Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi should remain in prison until either the full term of their respective sentences have been completed or they die. It’s worth remembering too that Libya only paid compensation to the victims of Lockerbie after the lifting of UN sanctions in 2003, fifteen years following that tragic bombing. Being duped by sentiment is our greatest enemy. No one wants anyone to die unnecessarily, yet there remains the fact that both of these people are dying from ‘natural’ causes and not through the actions of a third party, and no matter how much we may or may not agree with a sentence passed by a judge on an individual, that is our system of law in action. We and politicians undermine that system, in my opinion, at our peril. 

Well, politicians did undermine that system, so its over now to Cameron and Obama: somehow I don’t see much changing! I hear the weather in Tripoli is rather good at this time of the year.



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