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December 07, 2010

On a sojourn to the West Country, Theodore Dalrymple finally discovers the futility of imprisonment - and learns what a great Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke is

Posted by Theodore Dalrymple

I am enjoying my little sojourn in the West Country. I look forward eagerly to the appearance of the Western Gazette every Thursday, for the latest news on the trial of the alleged murderers of Glynn Rowlands, a man who, according to the evidence taken so far, was kidnapped in broad daylight, driven away, thrown over a gate, stripped naked, tied up, savagely beaten and then left to die in a muddy field, all because his alleged murderers believed that he had stolen some gold from the family of some of them.

The evidence of one of the accused, David Rose, in his own defence, is reported this week. He told the court that a man called Steve Brennan (who is not accused because there is no independent evidence against him) suggested that Glynn Rowlands be shut in a car that would then be soaked in petrol and then set on fire.

There was no way that could happen
, said the defendant.

There is no indication in the report as to whether the impossibility was a moral, humanitarian, practical or perhaps (the price of petrol being what it is) an economic one; instead, the victim was left naked (in winter) to die in a field.

Incidentally, last week's evidence included the interesting detail that some of the accused appeared in a local pub covered in blood, admitting that they had attacked the victim and asking the landlord not to talk about the blood to anyone. In other words, they lived in a world in which they did not fear to appear in public covered in blood.

The following two paragraphs will no doubt be of interest to those like Mr Kenneth Clarke who believe that prison does not work:

The court heard Rose had spent time in prison for violent offences including a two and a half year sentence for robbery and battery he committed in June 2007.

He was released from prison on licence last December when he was arrested in connection with Mr Rowland's murder.

If, then, the defendant is found guilty of murder it will provide conclusive evidence in favour of Mr Clarke's view: for it will have turned out that that he, the defendant, committed murder in the very month of his release from prison: ergo prison did him no good, ergo he should never have been imprisoned, ergo he should not go to prison for murder, for there is no reason to suppose that it will do him any more good this time, and guilty or innocent he should therefore be released at once. And this conclusion will be strengthened by the following information given in the newspaper:
Rose also committed earlier offences of assault in 2005 and criminal damage in 2003.
Another of the accused is reported, in his interview with the police, to have "regretted becoming involved in what happened" (n.b. not what they did). He continued:
My intentions were purely looking after other people and making sure they didn't do anything stupid..
Such as, presumably, buying petrol to set fire to a car with someone in it.

I am glad to be able to inform those who might not normally see the Western Gazette that it contained further evidence in support of our noble Justice Secretary's profound and profoundly humane views. I will quote a short article, with the headline "Teenager jailed after horrendous attack" in extenso so that readers might appreciate the moral grandeur of our rulers.

A teenager has been jailed for his part in what a judge called a "horrendous attack" on a vulnerable and defenceless man with autism.

Daniel Rodrigues, 18, and two co-defendants subjected their victim to a "brutal" attack after drinking heavily.

A police officer who attended the blood-spattered scene in [the victim's] said that it was "like something out of a horror movie."

All three attackers had blood on them and at one time they were all hitting their 20-year-old victim at the same time.

He was struck over the head a number of times with an iron bar and was taken to hospital with multiple cuts to his forehead, face and scalp.

Forensic scientists found he had been hit while already bleeding.

He needed surgery with a general anaesthetic and a blood transfusion.

Now here comes the decisive evidence in favour of Mr Clarke's views:
Rodrigues was jailed for 15 months for inflicting grievous bodily harm.
In other words, he will serve at most 7 months in prison, and quite possibly fewer, if he is granted early release.

Could there be any more decisive evidence in favour of the futility of imprisonment than this? What will Rodrigues learn in prison in 7 months other than how to be even more cruel to autistic 20 year-olds? He will learn this from more experienced criminals than he; he will learn refinements of torture that he never dreamed of.

And if he gets 7 months for a crime like his (for we must always remember that remission of 50 per cent is an inalienable human right), which sentence must lesser criminals, such as mere burglars get? Punishment must be proportionate to the seriousness of the offence; and surely anyone can see that to send a burglar to prison for (say) six weeks is utterly futile. It follows from this that to send Rodrigues to prison is itself totally pointless; like Rose, therefore, Rodrigues ought to be released at once, to prevent the terrible absurdity, the mockery of it all.

Thank heaven we have a Justice Secretary who sees this all clearly. Really it is an honour for a population to be ruled by people such as he of so deep an insight, so sincere a compassion and so uncompromising a realism. We may be proud of our state that it has at last overcome the primitive impulse to punish, incarcerate and incapacitate young men like Rodrigues, who so badly need help. Pity about Robert Macdonald, the victim of the attack, but the question we must surely all ask ourselves is, Did he have a triple lock on his front door? And if not, why not?

Theodore Dalrymple is a writer and worked for many years as an inner city and prison doctor.


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How decadent must a society become for it no longer to punish those who violate its laws? Socrates imagined the laws speaking to him in reproach--despite the miscarriage of justice. We, on the other hand, bristle under just laws.

Posted by: Brad at December 13, 2010 03:31 AM
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The progressive saboteurs of the penal system have this young man's blood on their hands. ...And that of countless others like him.

When one looks at Kenneth Clarke, a picture of epicurean jollity, it's very easy to forget just how treacherous to his countrymen he has proved, all throughout his political career. The wretch should be whipped at cart-tail.

Posted by: Paul at December 14, 2010 06:09 PM
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Dalrymple has had the opportunity to help those miscreants afflicted by mental disturbance and maladjusted personalities. That he takes such a pessimistic view of redemtion and reform clearly reflects his incompetence and inadequacy at this task. Hence he now earns a living on the backs of these poor souls. He may be a conservative but compassion is not in his lexicon. That he tries to give authority to his statements by referring to his former role as a prison doctor and psychiatrist is disgracefulness of a high order.

Posted by: m horsman at December 24, 2010 12:58 AM
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How can you say prison doesn't work? These thugs didn't commit any crimes of violence when they were actually in prison, did they? Or did they . . . ?

Anyway, if they didn't, prison works just as one would expect it to. No one really believes that thugs like this can be deterred when out of prision, do they?

Posted by: Robert Speirs at January 11, 2011 06:29 PM
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