This story has saddened me, and is beginning to wind me up.
Learco Chindamo is a young man who, over 12 years ago (at the age of only 15!) made a stupid, stupid mistake to be part of a gang. That gang membership led to a fight outside a school where a brave teacher tried to intervene. Chindamo stabbed him, and he died.
The death of Philip Lawrence was incredibly shocking at the time. It was one of those cases that ‘fits’ the media/political temperament of the moment, and ends up with wall-to-wall coverage. I’m still not sure why these things happen, but its something to do with the ‘human interest’ element, and probably also whatever agenda Murdoch is currently pursuing…
I want to make it clear that I think the death of Philip Lawrence was and is a tragedy. Human life is incredibly precious, and to have it snatched away in such a violent manner is a terrible thing. Learco Chindamo was guilty of a crime, and he deserved to pay for that crime. He was caught, charged, tried and found guilty, sentenced and jailed. He has served 12 years in prison. He has done his time.
Only, for some people, this isn’t enough. There is currently some consternation in the UK media, as the Government has just been told that they can’t deport Chindamo as they had hoped. Born in Italy, but raised in the UK since he was 6, this country is the only one he has known. It is the culture he is immersed in. It is where all of his family and friends reside. Yet we want to send him away, to throw him out of the country of his upbringing, even if its not of his birth.
A Home Office Minister, Tony McNulty has said Chindamo
“had forfeited his rights because of the seriousness of the crime he committed.”
This appals me. It appals me as much, if not more, than the original crime. When did we decide that a crime was so severe that it obliterated the Human rights of the individual?? When did we decide that murderers no longer deserve to be treated as human?
Murder is a heinous crime. It can never be sanctioned or justified, whether by individuals, or tribes, or governments. It is, and always will be, in all circumstances, wrong; both morally and legally. Thankfully the British justice system has always recognised that. The murder of Philip Lawrence was wrong.
There was a price that was to be paid for such a crime, and under the laws of this country Learco Chindamo has paid that price. He has served his time. If he is judged to be rehabilitated, if he is judged repentant, if he is judged to be of no more danger to the community (and we have very well trained people who make these decisions for us), then he should be released back into the community. That is how justice works.
But that isn’t enough here, because Learco Chindamo is not just a criminal. He is not just a murderer. He is a High Profile murderer, of a High Profile victim. Because of this, because Sun readers don’t understand what the word justice means, suddenly all concept of due process, of proportionality of punishment goes out the window. And our Government is so afraid of the Sun and the Daily Mail that they have to posture in such a ridiculous manner.
Learco Chindamo is not a serial killer (or even a cold-blooded killer). He is not a terrorist. He has not been judged a danger to the community. He is a kid who made a stupid mistake, which he probably deeply regrets.
In this country we enshrine in law a concept of retributive justice, not one of vengeance. I cannot believe that it is necessary to destroy the entire life of a young man who made a tragic mistake at the age of only 15. We have already taken away nearly half his young life. Why do we need to take away his family and his home as well?
Much has been said in this case, and others like this, about the rights of the victim. I feel the need to emphasise that I do believe that the victim also has rights, also needs to be treated as human; treated with dignity and respect. Frances Lawrence has experienced a terrible loss, one I can barely imagine. I am deeply sorry for her loss, and the continued pain she must feel as this case is dragged back into the media spotlight again.
Yes, victims have rights. Yes, victims feel a terrible sense of loss, and a deep desire for retribution. But ‘vengeance is mine, says the Lord’.
I don’t say that as a pat answer, it really isn’t. Real justice will never be seen in this age. We have to wait for the True, Just judgement of the one true Judge. Until that time, we trust in the law of the land.
Believe it or not, the laws we have in this country are built on the principle that God will judge, but that until that time someone has to stand in between the family of the victim and the accused. Someone has to deflect the desire for vengeance and retribution and instead dispense some form of imperfect justice, some foreshadow of the justice to come. That is what our courts have done.
Frances Lawrence understandably feels much pain and loss and grief. I feel deeply for her. But because of her deep loss, she is the last person to be able to judge impartially on the fate of the young man who so cruelly snatched away the life of her husband. And those tabloid readers who empathise with her so understandably are similarly misplaced.
We are talking about the life of a young man. One who was but a boy when this crime was committed. Lets stop playing politics with peoples lives.