“Victims land up on the wrong side of the ledger”…Marc
Marc, a friend of mine came over for a beer the other night to watch the news. We switched off after a while:
- Drug-filled youth crashes through house, maims 93-year old and runs away.
- Daughter dies after using impure drugs.
- 19-year old rapes child.
- Hit-and-run death of old 65-year old person.
- Drugged man arrested in bloodstained T-shirt for murder of partner.
- Truck hits a car on the highway – 3 dead.
- Death by smoking.
- Missing toddler – believe abducted.
- Newspaper kiosk to close after 25 years.
- Thieves lure 2 people who want to sell their mobile phones and rob them in car park.
- Broken oil pipe in Canada spills oil.
- Killer appeals life sentence.
- 53-year old rapes schoolgirl on pavement whilst holding knife to her throat.
No good news.
Marc is 43. Unmarried. A serious and dependable person. So we started talking about a few things which eventually lead to items such as instant gratification, lawlessness, drugs and even – for him at his age – the “good old days”. I attempt to summarise some of his thinking here, whilst trying to see things in perspective.
He maintains that “walking in another person’s shoes is neither art nor science. It’s a ‘must’. And can sometime be revealing as well as a revelation for some.”
He calls it “empathy. Both sides now” he said. “Let’s look at victims for a change” he said. Especially victims of drug abuse. A 93-year old grandma sits in front of her TV in her house – bothering no-one. A drug-crazed 18 year old slams a car through her lounge wall, crashes into grandma, breaks her pelvis and hip. He somehow escapes hurt and runs away.
That is a death sentence for a person aged 93. They caught him afterwards. Stolen car. No license. And pleaded for a lesser sentence “because I was under the influence and did not do it intentionally. It was an accident“. No previous conviction. Gets a slap on the wrist. Suspended sentence with some hours communal service. And grandma will die after years. Bed-ridden and in pain.
- Druggie gets a second chance. Grandma doesn’t.
Next item. The father loses his daughter who took impure drugs. She dies in agony in a hospital. Maybe she is the “lucky one”. Dad – and the rest of the family – suffer for the rest of their lives, with the heartbroken father saying he wants “all drug dealers hanged. And may they burn in hell”.
- And the drug kingpin is a few dollars richer.
From here the conversation turned to a recent case that attracted international attention i.e. the conviction and execution by firing squad of two foreigners in Indonesia. Clemency please from parents, family and even politicians fell on deaf ears – and polluted the relationship between the two countries, with Indonesia claiming that the other country politicized a legal case. Note that warnings are posted on Indonesian entry documents as well as on signboards informing that drug trafficking is punishable by death. Sixteen offences currently attract the death penalty in that country, two of which are:
- Production, transit, import and possession of psychotropic drugs (Law No. 5/1997 on Psychotropic Drugs)
- Production, transit, import and possession of narcotics (Law No. 22/1997 on Narcotics)
The Indonesian legal system also differs from some of those in the West, which may pose issues of understanding and interpretation. Their President mentioned that 18,500 Indonesian children die of drugs every year. “Whether that figure is correct is not an issue”, my friend says “Even if it was 10% of that figure, then 1,850 kids are 1,850 too many. The issue is that kids lose their lives and families lose children. Parents are heartbroken, as elsewhere in the world”.
- Lesson learnt: Respect the laws of other countries and if you are caught there, then sometimes your own country can do little to help you.
Marc says he has done some research into the use of illegal drugs. Researchers – using several sources – estimate that between 149 million and 271 million people worldwide use illegal drugs resulting in an:
- estimated 250,000 deaths every year.
Not to mention the horrific “ICE” epidemic sweeping countries, causing mayhem, murder, one-punch deaths, further fueled by too much liquor, bravado and instant offence.
- “But how many victims?” asked Marc “How many innocent victims!”
Then he posed another question, which I could not answer: “Do drug traffickers or mules stop after the first successful deal? Or do they carry on, especially if they are part of ‘the system’ and opting out may be dangerous because they know too much. Very few drug smugglers will spill the beans for fear of retribution. And how much of a factor is ‘get-quick-rich’ money?”
- Or basically: Will they continue to be part of the supply chain that kills?
Now, Marc turned my attention to another point as I opened another beer.
“Victims and their families have rights too, you know. Their loved ones have emotions too and miss their kids, moms, dads, peers when they die at the hands of drug users and ultimately at the hands of drug kingpins.”
Then, between sips, he asked me another question that made me think.
- “Have we perhaps been focusing on the wrong side of the ledger for too long and the legal system became too soft? And do you think that rehabilitation works?”
I answered yes to his first question, but was in two minds about his second question, having studied sociology at one point in my life and knowing about recidivism. My view may perhaps be too much to the right of the current wave of permissiveness which sweeps the globe.
- We cannot rehabilitate those who had died because of illicit drugs – and importantly, their victims. They are dead and gone – but the heartache remains.
Marc then advanced a perhaps provocative point of view about how to deal with offenders, whomever they are and whatever they are guilty of – and their victims:
- “Liquidate whatever offenders possess until there is enough to compensate their victims, starting with their most valuable assets – house, car, etc. No pain, no gain” he said.
Now for the corker:
- “If they do not have enough to compensate, go after their parents and other family.”
His logic? “The scales of justice must balance. The victims should be restituted to an equal position as far as possible – and the offender must pay for that restitution, or the family where the offender cannot do it due to insufficient means. Once that happens, families will start looking after their kids.”
I said that it is perhaps a bit too far to go after the parents and other family, to which he retorted “Perhaps BUT, and this is the ‘but’ that makes it valid, the victim’s family also suffer – so for me it balances out. And it will make sure that parents bring their children up well. If you can claim to be a student and be on your parents’ medical plan till 25 or whatever age, then they should also be responsible for whatever you transgress, till at least that age.”
- I was shocked. It almost seems Middle Aged in concept.
Then Marc pointed me to a movie called ‘Taras Bulba’ where the father executed his own son for committing what they considered treason. Then he left me with this to ponder over:
Though an efficient and effective constitution allows government to function to protect the lives and liberties of citizens, it apparently does not require the State to protect its citizens from private violence. If a citizen wants to sue for compensation, it can do so as a private matter. The State will not interfere.
But, said Marc, driving a car without a license is not a private matter in the eyes of the law. Peddling drugs is not a private matter in the eyes of the law, he said. So pursuing the injustices that flow from that should also not be a private matter, he said. If it is, then it pits citizen against citizen and eventually lands up in an unequal state for victims.
- Marc said he just wants to “the books to be balanced for a change. And the Law should not be a bystander.”
Marc and I are still good friends, but I am now careful what news I discuss with him.