How It Begins
Posted on August 24th, 2023
by Rab Bruce’s Spider
I will admit that I have not read a great deal about the trial of former Nurse Lucy Letby. That anyone could consider harming a child, let alone killing several, is so appalling that I could not bring myself to read any of the horrendous details. I can only imagine the heartache and grief experienced by those families whose lives she wrecked by ending the lives of so many newborn infants.
But there is more controversy surrounding her because she did not attend her sentencing at Court, and the UK Government intends to change the law so that, in future, nobody can refuse to be present when being sentenced.
While this feeling is understandable, I’m not sure that the reaction has been helpful. As was discussed in an episode of the excellent Newsagents podcast, it is not impossible that some accused could turn their appearance in the dock into a farce through their behaviour. And when someone has been sentenced to a life in prison, what further punishments could a judge hand down?
As with so many things in life, this matter is more complex than it first appears, but what is worse is that some people do have suggestions for how to treat uncooperative prisoners. None other than TV "personality" Richard Madeley does have a suggestion for how to add further punishment to force people to attend their own sentencing. He is advocating the use of Tasers and truncheons to disable, bludgeon and perhaps seriously injure anyone who is uncooperative. That such medieval ideas can be promulgated to a wide audience is yet another symptom of the lurch to the Right in UK society. It may be idealistic to insist that even despicable murderers should be treated as human beings, and I do appreciate that there can be situations within some institutions where violence needs to be met with an appropriate measure of force, but if someone is simply refusing to cooperate, do they really deserve to be physically assaulted? We often hear complaints about Police brutality, and yet now we have influential people calling for violence as a first resort to punish people even when they are offering no violence themselves. I find that a very disturbing train of thinking, but it is sadly indicative of the suggestions and comments being made by some people about anyone else they consider undesirable. We’ve even had people calling in to radio stations to advocate using military forces to turn back refugee boats even if it means that it will result in deaths. This is sadly reminiscent of a scene in the early pages of George Orwell’s prescient novel, "1984" in which a cinema shows scenes of helicopter gunships massacring refugees in boats for the entertainment of the crowd.
We often wonder how the Nazis came to power in Germany. It is through the normalisation of brutality that these things come about, and that begins with the normalisation of brutal words and thoughts. Richard MadeLey’s comments were perhaps intended to be provocative, but the very fact that he can feel empowered to suggest such things on television shows just how far towards depravity the UK is sinking.