Saturday, 22 January 2011

Crime Does Pay: The Pontarddulais Example

From the Walls of Jericho to Pontarddulais
I remember reading an article several years ago written from a Protestant point of view, which stated that the Bible dealt with many societal issues, not least governance.

Included in the latter category was crime and punishment.

The author concluded (if I remember right) that circa 25-30% of the Bible was dealing with personal issues, but 70-75% of it dealt with society, government etc.

Naturally as a Catholic I found this very interesting, not least because Catholics (should!) believe in the Kingship of Christ, viz that societies should be officially Catholic, their laws be Catholic etc.

I found the article very interesting, but wondered in later years (without the original piece to reference) if he had included Old Testament laws ( I am 99% sure he did) and if so, would these kind of societal laws be made null and void by the Birth of Our Lord.

But didn't Christ Himself say:

Do not think that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. 

Does this mean the Old Testament (OT) laws still stand? I know Catholics still use the OT, for example, to oppose the Sodomite agenda. But on the other hand don't we chastise the Pharisees and their descendants for their rigid adherence to OT laws, even to the extent they sought the death of Christ. or was this because they had twisted the OT laws?

Anyway, forgive me for digressing. That's just me thinking aloud.

Where am I headed with this (I hear you plead).

On the local news last night there was the story of Pontarddulais Brass Band who had their instruments stolen and sold for scrap. The story was that the "head thief" went to jail.

Here's how the BBC reported it online:

Four men have been sentenced for stealing £15,000 of instruments from Pontardulais Town Band, which were sold to a scrap dealer.
Andrew Beer, 39, was jailed for 24 weeks at Swansea Crown Court. Christopher Davies, 23 and Jason Power, 36, were given suspended sentences.
Dealer Marcus Egan, 34, was given a suspended sentence for handling stolen goods.
The instruments, sold on for £61, were crushed at Egan's business.

One of the band members on the BBC last night decried how the total fines levied were £500, yet their insurance head risen to £700 p.a. because of the theft.

So let's study this:

  1. Thieves steal and scrap instruments worth £15K.
  2. As a result the band's insurance rises to £700 p.a.
  3. The main thief gets 3 months (he'll serve circa 1 and a half months).
  4. For stealing £15K's worth they are fined £500.

Doesn't something seem wrong there? The thieves (assuming they are on benefits) will pay a pittance, unnoticed for months to come, and the ringleader will get B&B for 6 weeks ate tax-payers' expense.

The only ones seriously out of pocket will be the honest brass band members who will have to pay extra insurance for years to come, leaving them hundreds (if not thousands) of pounds out of pocket, not to mention some of their original instruments may have held sentimental value and so be irreplaceable to all intents and purposes.

Now, again from memory, the article I read which dealt with The Bible and society said that:

  • If items are stolen and returned the thieves must pay the victim the value of the item(s).
  • If the items are stolen and not returned (eg destroyed/damaged) then the thieves must pay the victim twice* the value of the item(s).
  • if the thief did not have the money, then he would be forced to work until he had earned the money to repay the victim.**

Now in a land when a thief steals a car (eg worth £3K) smashes it up, gets a smack on the wrist (often to re-offend ad infinitum), leaving the victim to claim the loss on his insurance, rarely getting the value of his car, and facing increased insurance bills for years to come, wouldn't it be a great idea to implement something like the above (Biblical or not)?

It seems to me as a Catholic, that the current state of affairs not only flies in the face of Christian values and common sense, but also natural law.

I am not (Deo Gratias!) a lawyer, and I am no expert in the laws of the land, I can only speak out on what I see, and when I see injustice am I not (are we not!) honour bound to speak out? Especially when the weak, vulnerable, and victims in society are being unjustly targeted by the justice system that should not only be protecting them in the first place, but giving them succour and (obtaining for them) remuneration after any crime.

It's easy to be populist when dealing with crime (why do bank robbers get 15 years for taking bits of paper and paedophiles get 5 years for ruining the lives of dozens), but regardless of cheap point scoring (rightful or otherwise) we must surely seek the implementation of a justice system that is intrinsically fair and just, with victims and criminals.

I have long thought that at the moment we have a system that uses a sledgehammer to crack a nut (intrusive laws, Orwellian tactics etc. against the innocent majority) yet when criminals are eventually caught, as in the Pontarddulais Brass Band case discussed herein, they are not given sufficient reprimand to make them reassess their lives and realise the harm they have done.

We owe it to the victims of crime to make the criminal justice system fair, correct and just; inasmuch as we it to the criminals to make the criminal justice system fair, correct and just.

I believe the only way to make it so for the victims to make sure the thieves et al recompense the victims; just as to make it so for the perpetrators is to make the jails places where they can get an education and become rehabilitated.

At the moment the criminal justice system fails on both counts, leaving victims worse off and leaving criminals in a cycle of crime.

I would be interested in knowing what other Catholics think, as well as examples of Biblical laws or the teaching of the Magisterium of the Church on victims and criminals.

I apologise for the rambling nature of this piece, but I am thinking aloud on this matter and searching for answers...

* This may have been 1.5 times the value of the item(s)
** I think it may have mentioned selling his property to pay, but that may be wishful thinking on my part.

Scrap Dealer Crushes Brass Band's Instruments

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