Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Victims's Rights Are Superior to Those of a Prisoner

I was on The One Show earlier today, talking about whether prisoners should ever be released on compassionate grounds. It's an interesting film, which concentrates on one case of a prisoner who is dying of a tumour. He had burgled an old lady twice. Does he deserve the right to compassion? I argue not. In my view the victim has a right to be consulted over any early release and this right has to supercede any so-called compassion society might show to the perpetrator.

Click HERE to watch the film. Scroll in to 1 min 40. (my section starts at 4.30).

Note: The courtroom we filmed this in (in Eccles Town Hall) is the one used by Coronation Street. Deirdre Barlow was sent down here!


Francois Smith said...

Dale goes on TV to give a populist rant a few days before a vote.

Classy stuff, Iain. Very classy.

Paul Halsall said...

Let's hope you never a mote in your eye.

Tachybaptus said...

Reported in the Daily Telegraph on 29 September: the story of Rukhsana Kausar, an Indian farmer's daughter. Three armed Pakistani militants broke into the house and started beating up her father. She hit one of them with an axe and shot him dead with his own gun, then shot and wounded another as he ran away.

Indian police saluted her bravery, and she has been nominated for a medal.

But I think we all know what would happen if she had done the same thing here: she would be in jail awaiting trial for offences against the gunmen's human rights.

Mrs R said...

"In my view the victim has a right to be consulted over any early release"

I believe that's part of the restorative justice programme

David Morris said...

It's all me, me, me with you isn't it ?

As it's your blog fair enough, but less shameless creeping up to CallMeDave please !

BTW I predict you will be performing as Widow Twankey by Christmas 2013

Good Luck !

AP said...

I can't agree. Only in the most heinous cases where you are sentenced to life in prison without prospect of release should you be condemned to die alone amongst strangers.

In this country we pass sentence of loss of liberty with a view to rehabilitation, we do not prescribe cruel or unusual punishment.

To force a terminally ill man who was sentenced to five years incarceration to die in a prison hospital as part of the price he must pay to society reflects badly on us.

Can society forgive a man who will imminently have to face his maker?

Colin said...


Sorry this if off topic, but it's worth a look.

This is a Sky News video of Adam Boulton interviewing Brown at the G20, on September 25th.

Scroll to 02:35. Did he know what was coming?


YES, YOU GORDON! To the tune of £12k

londonmuslim said...

Steady on old chap that's also the Islamic view,Islam permits the victim to pardon the perpetrator.

voiceofourown said...

It's not about whether the prisoner deserves compassionate release Iain, it's about whether we are civilised enough to grant it where no purpose (other than vengeance) is served by the prisoner remaining incarcerated.

Anonymous said...

This is populist drivel. The kind I would expect from Tony or Dave and the Sun newspaper. Human rights are equal for all: king, pensioner, prisoner or MP. Compassion is something else and reflects on what *society* is capable of and not what perps deserve or what victims think perps deserve.

Victims justice is uncivilised: it's so Old Testament/Torah/Koran. If I wanted to live in that kind of society I would go live in the Middle East.

Sarah said...

I am in complete agreement with you. Although I'm not entirely a Tory fan, I am a fan of your blogs! This is an argument that must not be overturned! Throw away the key! Shame we can't do that for ex - spouses either!

Doubting Richard said...

What rights of victims are being challenged? They quite rightly have no rights in a criminal case, they should only be involved as a witness if at all.

Justice is a case of the state against the accused, not the victim against the accused. The punishment is response to the crime, not a sop to the victim. Anything else is not justice it is revenge, and down that road lies a very bad place for everyone (and incidentally much lighter sentences - studies have shown most victims just want it to be over).

That is not to say that I agree with release on compassionate grounds being automatic or even expected. What it means is that the case must be decided on the basis of the state's justice against the criminal in respect of the crime. The victim is not party to that, and however fluffy and humane it sounds must not be part of that.

What you are suggesting would require the dismantling and rebuilding of a legal system developed over more than a thousand years, which is probably not a good idea, at least not without a great deal of consideration. With the greatest respect to your undeniable talents as a political commentator, I am not sure your knowledge of fundamental legal principles and philosophy is up to that task.

ash said...

A moving watch and a very hard question.

To be honest I don't think there's a simple answer.

What if there are a multiple victims? Do you hold a vote? What if the criminal's family want him released so that they can resolve issues that have bedeviled them?

Off the top of my head I'm not sure a victim can have a right to a veto but a right to be informed and consulted, of course.

God,I feel for Bret's mother though. Any parent would be desperate to believe that the child they reared had some redemption.

I didn't know the "One Show" had started covering serious issues. I may have to watch it in future!

Roger Dodger said...

So the victim of a violent crime gets a say in the chance of release and you consider that a 'right'. What like say, free speech?

Maybe if the prisoner gives the gives the victim a few goats we can forget all about it.

Surely the state administers justice on our behalf. Social contract, Parliament, judges and stuff.

May I please ask which doctrine, precedent or custom makes you suggest they have that 'right'. Or is that your own idea of a new right? Other their other ideas for rights from that same source?

(You are seeking to represent me BTW and I thought I had some grasp on your politics)

Gareth said...

AP said: "I can't agree. Only in the most heinous cases where you are sentenced to life in prison without prospect of release should you be condemned to die alone amongst strangers."

Are dying prisoners not allowed visitors?

John C said...

Although I tend towards the 'lock them up and throw away the key' brigade, I must say I'm not keen on a victim having a veto or major influence on the decision as to whether a prisoner should be released or not.

Justice should not take personal situations and opinions into account. To me, 'justice should be seen to be blind' also emcompasses the passion and emotion of the victims.

The fact that a form of witness statements has crept into the criminal justice system is the result of the judicial system being too liberal. The courts need to be told directly of the impact of the rape of a 94 year old granny had on the family to shame them into giving a significant sentence. Why do they need the family to tell them how awful it is?

This only arose because society felt that the judicial system has let them down. How many people shake their heads in disbelief when sentences are announced at the end of a news item. Life for a gruesome murder and you must serve at least 12 years. So, it's 12 years then.

The problem, it seems to me, is the 'take over' of the criminal justice system by a load of do-gooder liberals who tend to live in areas away from the sink estates where most serious and violent criminal activity either takes place or originates from.

I wish someone would pass a law to make the follwoing mandatory:

Whenever a parole board releases a predatory paedophile as he (or she) is deemed safe and no longer a threat to the public, the first night the prisoner is released should be spent alone with all children of all members of the parole board. This will solve the problem of released paeodphiles abusing and murdering further children. A bit sick, I know. But, if these liberals had to put their own children's safety on the line, would they be so liberal?

I will make one predication based on my observations of the British judicial system.

When the armed robbers in the recent £40 million jewelry case in London are sentenced, they will get longer than any of the perpertrators in the Baby P case.

Alex said...

What has the administration of justice got to do with the feelings of the victim? The whole idea of a justice system is that it takes away any subjectivity in the decision, the sentencing and any decisions on parole or early release.

For all I know, the original sentencing guidelines may have been drawn up with the view that there may be circumstances where an early compassionate release is warranted.

blemster said...

"A Victims's Rights Are Superior to Those of a Prisoner"
3 parts of justice Ian


it`s not for us to rant, but the grace of god. We have hundreds of years worth of good laws, it`s just that we lost the rope somewhere lol

HF said...

On a practical level its very difficult (and expensive) to give a prisoner the best possible treatment if they are in prison, and I think most people would agree that they should be treated properly.

Having as a cancer doctor been in the position of having to decide whether or not to recommend a prisoner should be released, my general view is that if they have a terminal illness I would always make the case (medically) that they would be better looked after at home.

I believe that it is right that that submission should be considered in the light of the severity of the crime. I can tell you that release is by no means guaranteed.

Although the victim's views can (and probably should) be taken into account they should not necessarily be the deciding factor for the reasons others have discussed above

Terry Hamblin said...

Of course the victim should have a say. If it is the state that decides then the state should fully compensate the victim for the hurt caused. The state acts on behalf of its citizens and unless laws are enforced and punishments exacted fully then the victims are betrayed.

Death happens to 100% of people and in this case, since the diagnosis is lung cancer it is likely to have been self inflicted. The human rights lawyer who equated it with the death penalty is delivering faulty logic. The penalty is imprisonment - if the prisoner is unable to do the five years he must do as much of it as his life allows.

Compassion does not come into it. If you can't do the time, don't do the crime. The heavy sentence wasn't just for burglary as the lawyer suggested but for the assault on the old lady as well.

His mother may be innocent, but the loss that she incurs was delivered by her son not the state.

There are millions dying in much worse conditions around the world than exist in a British prison. If your compassion is overflowing, show some for them.

Today's secular humanism believes that mankind is basically good. Nonsense, you have to teach a child to be good; evil comes naturally.

Hywel said...

"Does he deserve the right to compassion? I argue not. In my view the victim has a right to be consulted over any early release"

I think you've answered a different question though. "Consultation" could mean a variety of things. Are you saying that the victim's right to consultation over early (compassionate) release should in effect be a veto?

If you extend this to more regular early releases then aren't you creating a system where the penalty is not based on the crime committed but on the vengefulness of the victim.

How do you then resolve this where there is more than one victim and they disagree. IIRC in the Anthony Walker case his parents called for his murderers to be shown mercy whilst his girlfriend held the opposite view.

That said the current system of automatic early release is nonsensical. If a convicted offender will serve 18 months in prison and then 18 months on licence then that should be the sentence handed down in court.

There should be a provision for early release to be earned based on good behaviour in prison and co-operation with education/offender management/drug addiction treatement etc.

stoke said...

Criminal law is about the wrong to the state - and not about the wrong to the victim.

These "victim impact statements" are over-emotional and, quite frankly, American.

JuliaM said...

I see the Beeb allowed the odious Clive Stafford-Smith some more free publicity again on this show...

"It's not about whether the prisoner deserves compassionate release Iain, it's about whether we are civilised enough to grant it where no purpose (other than vengeance) is served by the prisoner remaining incarcerated."

What's so civilised about forgetting our debt to the victim, on whose behalf we are administering justice?

"The problem, it seems to me, is the 'take over' of the criminal justice system by a load of do-gooder liberals who tend to live in areas away from the sink estates where most serious and violent criminal activity either takes place or originates from."

Exactly! Remove this from the system and there'd be no need for the victims to have their say.

Manfarang said...

Which prisons have you seen the inside of,Iain?
Have you read Jeffrey Archer's books about the time he was in jail?

Iain Dale said...

Manfarang, I haven't ever visited a prison.

Yes, I have read all 3 volumes. And they are absolutely excellent, as I have written on this blog before.

Roger Dodger said...

Come on Iain. This new 'right'. Is this Tory party policy?

Please answer the question. Which legal school of thought did you get it from or is this a right you have invented yourself?

Surely this is the work of a serious legal theorist?

I'm a fan Iain but this appearance on that oasis of class, The One Show, has suddenly made me stop in my tracks.

I would suggest getting an answer ready now because I will ask it on Saturday if I can.

This is pretty damn disappointing. Thought you were different to the type that make up policy on the hoof to impress on an entertainment show.

Too Right! said...

Well said Iain.

Oh, all those people who deride this as populism should think; populism is the word used to describe democracy by those (frequently trendy "socialist")whingers who disagree with the majority.

simon said...

Do you really believe that someone who commits a crime against a victim who is saintly and forgiving should get a lesser punishment that someone whose victim isn't prepared to turn the other cheek?

Unsworth said...

OK, so at what point is Justice considered done? At the point of sentencing or when the victim feels that it is?

What happens when Victim A takes a different view to Victim B?

Nobody, but nobody, has a 'right' to compassion, do they? Compassion (or Mercy, in old fashioned terms) is something which is/should be exercised on an individual basis, having regard to the circumstances.

The problem for victims is that if they are to be consulted over release they are condemned to serve the same length of sentence as the convicted.

jafo said...

My comment is not about Iain's views on this particular case but is of a more general nature.

What I wonder is, where in the so-called Justice system does the victim actually come? Many posters here have said the victim is merely a witness in the case! "Merely a WITNESS?" Clearly compassion seems to have gone walkies with that type of comment. Even more clearly, they haven't been the victims of crime.

Surely the Justice system is supposed to render justice on behalf of the victim and society - to point out that in a civilised society certain behaviour cannot be allowed, for the benefit of us all. Isn't the deal that we give up our right to exact personal justice in return for the State doing it for us.

If the State doesn't do that, isn't it saying that the victim doesn't matter, isn't very important, doesn't matter if they've been robbed, assaulted, raped, murdered.

Is that the message of a civilised society?

Roger Dodger said...


Your analysis is about as skin deep and knee-jerk as Iain's.

The victim is part of society.

If you agree with Iain that in the case of violent offenders the victim has the 'right' to decide on their release then you have to answer the same questions.

This is not only nonsense but a radical shift from the legal principles of this country. Sounds more like something from Afghanistan.

I would like to know where the man I am considering voting for as my MP got the idea for this. I would like it explained further. Where is the rest of the party on this? How long has this been your view Iain.

Please give an answer to this because (at the risk of being repetative) this is make or break for me.

Either Iain Dale is a breath of fresh air, a new approach etc. Or he just says what ever sounds good on rubbish TV shows.

I need to know before Saturday or Rory Stewart is getting my vote.

Rachel said...

There has never been justice in law. Ask any lawyer and any victim.

And let me tell you that all these 'liberals' who see 'justice' only pertaining to the criminals and not to their victims change their tune right smartish when they become the victim.

john bloxham said...

You can just hear the Daily Mail comments section roaring with approval.

God bless the new 'caring' Conservatives

Kcila said...

For those who talk about civilised society forgiving prisoners - wake up and get with the real world!

Half the crimes in this country are committed by felons released early by the very same "civilised society".

So a prisoner dies in gaol. Big bloody deal. He/she is there because they have committed a crime against the very civilised society they expect forgivness from. By dying in gaol they are at least doing civilised society a great service.

The more that cark it behind bars the better.

Steve H said...

I think that's crap, Iain. A victim may have the right to be protected from crime but they can't be given any rights over sentencing. If two identical crimes are committed, do we allow two different parole policies to be pursued dependant on each victim's ability to forgive and forget?

Sounds like you're looking for the Sun vote in your primary, Iain.

Iain Dale said...

Just as a point of info, I recorded about 10 minutes of responses to this. I make no complaint about the answers they chose to include, but I spoke a lot about related issues on sentencing and the fact that I would certainly allow prisoners convicted of non violent crimes out early in certain circumstances. They may have chosen the most red blooded answer (but it is not a rant, as some have suggested)

Roger Dodger: Victims have a right to be consulted in certain circumstances already on sentencing issues. Believe it or not I do not consult a Tory policy handbook before doing TV interviews (if such a thing exists). I speak for myself. I never said that victims have a right to decide. I said the victim had a right to have a say. That is very different to what you suggest. Are you saying that victims don't deserve any voice? If so, there can be no meeting of minds.

I am not a gut right winger in the issue of prisons and sentencing. If you look back on my blog you will see examples of me arguing that we should send fewer people to prison, as nowadays the wrong people end up there. We should concentrate far more on rehabilitation than we do. I even spoke at a fringe meeting at the conference this year putting forward that case.

So if you want to judge me on a 20 second section of a ten minute interview, that's your right. I don't regret saying what I said at all, but if you want to know more about my views in this area you might want to ask me some further questions.

Feel free to email me.

Iain Dale said...

Roger, in fact I'll go one better than that. I'm in Bracknell all day tomorrow and all evening. I'd be happy to come and talk to you face to face about this. Can't say fairer than that, can I?

Rich T said...

Umm. Interesting.

What about victimless crimes?

What happens when you speed? Whom should we speak to when considering a penalty?

What about if you like humping horses? Or the dead? Both criminal offences.

Anonymous said...

Supersede is the most commonly mis-spelt word in the English language. Getting it wrong is just criminal. Lock'im up, I say!

Joe Public said...

AP @ 9:51

Get real.

Proper criminals, caught lying & troughing thousands of pounds get 'asked' to apologise, don't get forced to repay their ill-gotton gains, keep their job. And, have the prospect of an automatic peerage.

Who say the British aren't compassionate?

Houdini said...

As usual the lefty liberals who are the first to cry for scum, until they are the victim of course, get mixed up with the concepts of vengeance, punishment, debt and victimisation.

March Hare said...

Victims should never be consulted on the punishment or release of criminals. We have an impartial judicial system so that the crime (or criminal) can be viewed dispassionately and justice or mercy meted out appropriately. Anything else approaches mob justice.