The big story where I live, in Jersey, this month, has been the horrific mass murder of a couple of Polish families on a peaceful Sunday afternoon. To inflict on anyone the fear and then agony of a knife attack is a great wrong, and to give them many extra years of empty death, when they should still have been in the fullness of life, is by far the greatest wrong of all, and even more so when stealing almost the whole life expectancy of a small child. Multiply that by six and it is enough to shock even so smug a place as Jersey.
In fact, many people are so shocked that they are blurting out quite intemperate comments. While I would hate to be misunderstood as condoning such repugnant wickedness, I feel that I cannot agree with altogether everything that is being said by some of those who share my outrage at the crime, and my sadness for the victims.
While subsequent news releases imply that the sole survivor of the incident was indeed the aggressor, there was no indication in the first few, that the wounded man had not heroically fought for his life in self-defence and won. And yet complete strangers were already pouring their hate on this potentially innocent man, without waiting to find out whether he deserved it or not. This time nobody is having to eat their words, but it might behove them to consider the age-old procedure of evidence first, judgement afterwards in future.
Another ill-considered reaction the atrocity has provoked is calls for the return of the death penalty. Two cases alone are enough show why that one is best left in the history books: Compare the horrible story of Timothy Evans, who was framed for the murder of his beloved wife, only for his landlord to be unmasked as a serial killer some time after poor Evans ended his days dangling from a gallows, with the Guildford Four, who were framed for a terrorist bombing outrage; the judge bemoaned that he could no longer sentence them to hang, but when the real culprits were caught some years later, they were released to pick up the broken threads of their lives. In both these instances, the juries were under a duty to only convict if they found the accused's guilt beyond reasonable doubt, and both times they were subsequently shown to have been wrong, but at the cost of only one innocent life. Never again, I say.
But it is not only the public who have overreacted: The States of Jersey Police Force have really gone overboard in making a large and expensive fuss. Although the consequences of a knife being used were so much more evil and horrible, the crime was essentially a simple domestic fight getting exceptionally far out of control. From a policing point of view there is no more complexity than had the killer struck with an empty hand, although, of course, that would have been a far less serious crime. They had the suspect under guard in the hospital, so what were all the closed roads and armed patrols about? Just grandstanding, and probably milking the overtime into the bargain. Visible activity, plus fomenting public insecurity has to help with getting police budget increases passed, too.
And one last grumble has to be aimed at the washed-up ex-politician who spouted off about how he thought that it was all about the terrible pressure Jersey life imposes on ordinary people. I don't buy the paper he was interviewed by, and the second-hand summaries I have seen of his opinions may not have been quite accurate, but he has had conspicuous mental health problems for some years now, and they don't seem to be getting any better. Time he discreetly withdrew to deal with his demons in private.