The concept of justice is pretty well always contentious. Everyone’s got an opinion, and often it’s hysterical. It’s a situation that isn’t helped by the political football it becomes every time there’s an election, and the gullible flibbetygibbets who choose to get outraged.
I don’t think I’m a flibbetygibbet, but I have an opinion. In general my opinion is that justice should be based upon the prudent application of law. I understand how people get emotional, but justice should not be based on emotion. It should be based on facts, and the process by which those facts are assessed and ultimately adjudicated on. It’s not as simple as that always. There are grey areas, which is when we must rely upon the wisdom and experience of our independent judiciary.
Having said that, or perhaps because I’ve said that – I’m not sure which – there have two legal developments in the last 24 hours that leave me confused.
In the first Mark Chapman, John Lennon’s murderer, was denied parole for the seventh time. He has been in prison for 32 years. The reason given for denying his application is that to grant it would be to ‘trivialise’ his crime.
Now I’m a Beatles fan, and love the music of John Lennon. The day he died is one of those rare days that will stick in my mind forever. Chapman was sentenced for the crime and sent to prison. Now though, he seems he can’t get out.
Now I understand parole being rejected for those criminals who show no remorse, or give every sign that they will re-offend. Lock ’em up. From what I gather though that doesn’t apply in Mark Chapman’s case. Reading between the lines it seems that Chapman is being punished over and above his sentence because the person he killed was famous. Had he murdered a relative unknown dead-set he’d be home free by now. Hell, I’m sad that Lennon got killed, and distraught at all the great music denied to us by his death, but I’m not sure his murder should attract a premium simply because he was famous and much loved. Surely the rule of law is beyond such considerations, independent of popular clamour? In other words, isn’t Chapman entitled to the same treatment as anyone else in his situation?
The other big legal news is the sentencing of Anders Breivik, the Norwegian mass murderer. In the last 24 hours he was declared sane and sentenced to 21 years in prison. This seems the opposite extreme to me. Breivik killed 77 people, and celebrates it still. 21 years? That seems a ridiculously pitiful sentence for the crime. I don’t know the Norwegian legal system, but it’s hard to believe in this case, or in Chapman’s, that justice is being truly served.