Friday, August 21, 2009

Justice but not revenge

On December 21st 1988 I was sitting watching television in the small cottage I was renting near Knutsford to the west of Manchester. It wasn’t far from Manchester airport and the aircraft traffic was a ‘feature’ of the location, both low flying craft in and out of Manchester, and higher aircraft on the way elsewhere. The lower flying ones seemed about to land on the roof when the wind was in certain directions.

Later that evening, news started to come in of a disastrous air crash. A plane Pan Am flight 103 headed for New York JFK had come down on the town of Lockerbie near the Scottish border. Houses had been destroyed and many killed and maimed on the ground as well as the loss of all those on the flight.

In the aftermath, a plan of the route that the plane took to where it crashed from its take off at Heathrow was published. I realised that the Pan Am flight COULD have flown over me and I’ve always remembered that evening.

Looking at Wikipedia today, the flight information seems a little confused. It says that the take off was to the northwest and the flight then turned due north over Daventry in the West Midlands towards Scotland. That route would not have taken it over Lockerbie and would have been anomalous for a plane that had to check in with Prestwick air control before leaving Scottish airspace for the Atlantic crossing.

So, lets say that instead of crashing into a Scottish village, the bomb had been detonated earlier and it had crashed on me instead.

I would not have wanted my friends and relatives to prevent or speak against my killer spending his last agonising days at home. We put people in prison as much because they are a public threat as a punishment. Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi isn’t much of a public threat in his condition. We have yet to see how Libya will deal with him, but they are keen to renew links with a world that has shunned them. They want and need to build their economy with western links and technology. Perhaps he should be under house arrest for his remaining days so that there can be no suggestion that he could possibly plot further atrocities.

There is another aspect too. If Al Megrahi had been kept in the UK, we would have had to care for him using NHS resources. There are British people who are dying because the NHS refuses them drugs which could help their condition – allegedly on grounds of cost. Isn’t it better that whatever care he gets now is paid for by the Libyan Government and his family and not out of our pockets?

I would like to say that I also support the compassionate release of Ronald Biggs. He had already been moved to a hospital outside the prison and was under a totally unnecessary 24-hour guard. He can’t walk and is being fed via a stomach tube. Does it really matter where he spends his last few days. He has now been moved to a care home close to where his son lives.

We are supposed to be a civilised society. There are British people languishing in jails in various parts of the world, including Islamic countries. Some of them have allegedly not had fair trials. If we are to ask honestly for clemency and humane and fair treatment for them, it is right that we let this dying man go back to Libya and that is something that America seems to have forgotten. Keeping Al Megrahi in prison in Scotland would not have brought loved ones back. Putting people in prison is supposed to be about justice, not revenge.


This last paragraph has been in the post since first publication, but it seems that commenters are not giving it any consideration or are just not reading the whole post. So I'm highlighting it. Unless the contents are personally abusive or obscene, I will publish all comments regardless of the point of view.
I ask would be commenters to put themselves in the position where THEIR loved one is in jail in a foreign country and terminally ill. What would you really want to happen to them?



Emm said...

Oh wow. I have to say Jenny, it's the first time I've really disagreed with you on one of these issues. I really don't think either of those men should have been released, especially Ronnie Biggs. But then I spent over ten years in my own prison after being on the other side of a gun held by a volatile and unpredictable bank robber. They are not neglected in jail - they should just die without the comfort of their families and friends beside them.

The Retired One said...

I disagree with you on so many levels. He gave up his right to be released from prison because of a terminal illness when he plotted and succeeded in killing all of those people. Was that humane?

The Retired One said...

P.S. the copilot was one of my friend's brother-in-law.

Jenny Fletcher said...

Please re-read and meditate on the title I gave my post. There is a subtle but distince difference between just punishment and vengeful inhumanity.

Al Megrahi would never have received an adequate level of palliative care as he is now receiving in Libya or even would have done as a free person in the UK.

That is why Gordon Brown said he didn't want Al Megrahi to die in jail, because the poor standard of medical treatment avaialble to sick prisoners would have become public knowledge - the same applied to Ronnie Biggs.

Just because our society locks someone up for a crime, it does NOT exempt us from treating them as a human being when they are sick.

I saw a quotation just the other day.

"An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind"

Elisson said...

"Keeping Al Megrahi in prison in Scotland would not have brought loved ones back. Putting people in prison is supposed to be about justice, not revenge."

It may not have brought anyone back, but it would have at least prevented this mass-murdering bastard from being received in Libya with a hero's welcome.

Revenge would have involved dropping al-Megrahi out of an airplane at 10.000 metres. Justice was putting him in a prison cell until he was cold and stiff. Alas, justice was not served by his "compassionate" release... and the West once again shows misplaced kindness to people who will inevitably interpret it as weakness and a failure of resolve.