Friday, June 23, 2006

Racial Aggravation

It has become an accepted truth in this country that if a criminal chooses to commit a crime based on his victim's race, then the crime is all the more heinous and the criminal's sentence should be increased to reflect this. I have noticed that the most vociferous champions of this policy are the politically-correct, human-rights-loving liberals, who campaign for equal treatment of everybody, regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, etc, etc. However, what strikes me is the irony that in their pursuit of greater equality for all, they are in fact, creating a system in which the lives of citizens are not regarded as being of equal value.

In its explanation of the policy behind its sentencing advice to the Court of Appeal for racially aggravated offences, the Sentencing Advisory Panel, it was stated that the Government "recognises that racist crime does not simply injure the victim or their property, it affects the whole family and it erodes the standards of decency of the wider community. Trust and understanding built up over many years between communities can be eroded by the climate of fear and anxiety which can surround a racist incident".

Whilst I agree with this sentiment, I dislike the impact of these guidelines, which although were designed to address the evil of racist motives, have the unintended consequence of according greater value to some lives than to others, by imposing harsher sentences on some criminals because of their attitude towards their victim. Similarly, I disagree with those people who, in the wake of WPC Sharon Beshenivsky's murder, called for harsher sentences for murderers who killed police officers than for murderers who killed "ordinary" citizens.

After all, surely all life is precious and therefore all criminals who harm others should be severely punished. If we continue further down the road of awarding differential sentences according to the status of the victim, where do we stop?


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