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June 10, 2006

Alan Webster and Child Rape

A quick test. Without (or before you) clicking on or hovvering over the link to see which paper it comes from have a guess as to the origin of this:

It may sound less than lawyerly, but, to me, Webster deserves to pay the ultimate price for his crimes. What redemption is in prospect for such a callous, depraved beast? It is very hard to imagine that a mind so twisted is capable of any remorse, still less rehabilitation. That being the case, what is the point of his continued existence? What message does the fact that he is still alive send to other paedophiles, intent, as was Webster, in inflicting unutterable harm on a defenceless girl?

Moreover, it is astonishing that French merits a mere five-year jail term. I am not aware of the full detail of her plea in mitigation, but we can assume that she alleged she had been corrupted by Webster. This is, no doubt, true, but surely she should have been more severely punished. It seems risible that someone who admitted the same offences – of rape, indecent assault, permitting indecent images to be taken of a child and making indecent images – should face no more than five years in prison.

It is illiberal, and it is harsh, but French should be facing the improbability of ever being released, and Webster should be facing execution. The pair’s crimes deserve no less, and such punishment would send the only message acceptable to paedophiles.

It’s too wordy for the Currant Bun or The Mirror. Still too erudite for the News of the Screws or The Express. Got to be The Daily Mail, hasn’t it. String ’em up, it’s the only language these people understand, eh?

Nope, The Times weblogs. From a practising lawyer actually: wouldn’t you love to be the defendant if he ever becomes a judge?

I am of course betraying my own namby-pamby liberality here in being implacably opposed to the death penalty forthere are only two morally justified reasons (as far as I can see) for the killing of somone: in immediate self defense or in the course of a Just War.

...such punishment would send the only message acceptable to paedophiles.

isn’t all that different from "It’s the only language they understand" now is it. I realise that others may differ but hanging someone to "send a message" doesn’t quite cut the mustard with me.

June 10, 2006 in Law | Permalink


Back in the old lawless days people personally exacted punishment on those who had offended them. Sadly this often led to vendettas and feuds.

So as states developed and commonly accepted rules of behaviour were adopted the state became the agent of punishment largely on the grounds that if punishment was applied by an anonymous entity it wasn't personal and there would be no blood debt.

Thus the state became an impartial and cold blooded avenging angel. The same rules for punishment were applied to everyone (or at least they should have been). In the case of the death penalty the punishment had to become a chillingly mechanical and cold blooded affair.

Now it is very easy, sitting in a comfy chair, to demand the death of a monster. We see it all the time on the pages of the Sun and the Mirror. I think deep down we'd all admit to wishing the likes of Webster dead even if only fleetingly. But what these people, eager to string up society's aberations, forget is that the state cannot be influenced by the monstrosity of the crime or the perpetrator. The state would have to apply the law equally to all people - that includes the monsters, the hangers and floggers themselves, even their families if they were convicted of a capital offence. The state would have to be horribly impartial.

And if Mr Hangem - Hyghe and his chums cannot state truthfully that he personally would be prepared to put the noose around the neck of his best mate or his own mother if they were found guilty, he certainly does not have the right to demand that someone else does it for him. To do so is moral and intellectual cowardice.


Posted by: The Remittance Man | Jun 10, 2006 11:17:40 AM

I realise that others may differ but hanging someone to "send a message" doesn’t quite cut the mustard with me.

This suprises me, Tim. I thought you'd be all in favour of stringing up a politican or two from the nearest lampost in order to send a message to the rest.

Tim adds: But then politicians really are inhuman scum who deserve to be strung up.

Posted by: Tim Newman | Jun 10, 2006 11:27:48 AM


"The state would have to be horribly impartial."

Impartial, certainly. Justice should be impartial in any case, shouldn't it? I don't see any "horror" there, unless you're the guilty party trying to fast-talk his way out of a jail term or a noose, in which case tough titties, as Blackstone says.

If you're innocent and people are howling for your blood anyway, impartiality would look pretty good.

Or am I totally missing your point?

As for hanging your own mother, people arent cold-blooded about their own families. Judges aren't supposed to judge cases where they have a personal interest, and that includes personal interests that fall well short of the defendant being their mother — or the victim being their mother, for that matter.

Certainly "a man should be willing to shoot his own dog", but — though I can't speak for Britons here, har har har — most of us value our mothers a lot more than our dogs, to the point where only a sociopath is capable of impartially administering justice to his mother for anything bigger than a parking ticket, and maybe not then. So do we discard the very idea of justice on grounds of "moral and intellectual cowardice"? That would be ridiculous.

Posted by: P. Froward | Jun 10, 2006 12:44:23 PM

What I was trying to get across was the fact that howling for the blood of a monster is easy. But if we do change the law and permit the death sentence again the government would not be able to pick and choose its targets as the armchair pundits can. The government would have to apply the same rules to universally and that potentially includes freinds and relatives.

The second part of my argument is that these pundits find it very easy to demand that someone else does their dirty work. However if they were to be honest with themselves, unless they could personally perform the act of execution, and not just on a monster, but anyone found guilty which could include a freind or relative, then they really don't have the right to expect someone else to do it on their behalf.

Ask yourself: unless you are mentally (not physically) able to do something yourself is it right to demand somebody does it for you. If you aren't but still demand it be done in your name then I would contend that you are a coward both morally and intellectually.

I beleive that most of these hangers and floggers would not find it within themselves to coldbloodedly kill someone. Especially as, having read Pierrepoint's autobiography, most recipients of capital punishment actually appear to be rather ordinary and pathetic people to their executioner.


Posted by: The Remittance Man | Jun 10, 2006 1:51:23 PM

Are you saying that unless I can send my own mother to prison, I'm forbidden to advocate imprisoning criminals? What does my own personal moral courage have to do with the question of whether it's good policy to throw crooks in jail? Assume I don't have the heart to do it: Is it a lousy policy when I advocate it, but a good one when advocated by somebody less endowed with filial piety? That makes no sense.

If your mom kidnaps the neighbors, you should be willing to send her to Leavenworth. Yep. No question. But that's a separate issue.

Posted by: P. Froward | Jun 10, 2006 3:38:43 PM

Capital punishment should be reserved for murder, where the punishment exactly fits the crime. Here, the criminal could receive a combination of physical punishment and imprisonment to keep him out the way and prevent him from doing it again, if he really is too unsafe to be let back into society.

Posted by: Terry | Jun 10, 2006 4:10:53 PM

Mr Froward,


If in the highly unlikely event that Mrs Froward senior commits and is convicted of First Degree Capital Murder in a properly constituted court of law; unless you could throw the switch yourself, I personally don't see how you can ask anyone else to do the same.

To my mind that's the meaning and moral implication of demanding the death penalty. Tough choice innit?


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