Opinion Giselle Scicluna
The death penalty, imprisonment with hard labour? Of course not, because we’d really like to believe we live in a civilised society, right? But whatever happened to justice meting out a severe enough punishment to act as a deterrent? What happens to a country’s crime rate when a mere speck of rock sees an unprecedented growth in its population, which currently clocks in some four hundred and thirty thousand and counting? Not only does the crime rate explode, but the crimes take on a different dimension, which until quite recently, rarely if ever made the news. Pickpocketing, carjacking, rape and a host of other criminal activities which make the headlines every single day.
I could hardly count myself an expert on the intricacies of the law, far from it, but from where I’m standing our courts of justice are hardly fulfilling their scope. Not a day goes by when another suspended sentence is dished out by the honourable magistrate. Weeks of police manhours are simply flushed out of our hallowed courtrooms by another tame rap on the knuckles for an ever-growing variety of crimes. Why? Has it now become so controversial to call a spade a spade, or a criminal as such? Or has our society become so smothered in well-intentioned political correctness that our law courts seek to be consistently ‘corrective’ as opposed to ‘punitive’? And correct what exactly? A hardened criminal’s penchant for crime?
If a thief knows he’ll be in for some serious jailtime for a first offence, I’d bet there would be very few who would take the plunge. If some wannabe ‘gangsta’ brandishing a knife in Paceville knows that a sentence for murder is life, which actually means life, he’ll definitely think twice. If a rapist knows it’s a huge, huge chunk of his sorry, depraved sex life that would go to the dogs as punishment for his despicable offence, I’m sure most would walk away. And as for child molesters and rapists, how tempting would the flesh of a child still be, if they knew for certain that justice would simply lock them up and throw away the key?
Of course, there are some liberal voices in our society for whom this form of harsh punishment is an assault on their sensibilities and who reiterate that this is not the solution. The usual suspects naively believe in a criminal’s right of a ‘second chance’ (and a third and a fourth) and their favourite go-to excuse is the laughable concept of ‘reformation’. But let’s face it, it’s quite easy to believe in second chances, when it’s not your home that’s been ransacked, or your 80-year old mother who has been left for dead on her way to Mass, or your daughter who has been violated on a night out. It’s very easy when it’s not your child who has been molested by someone who was supposed to be guarding him or her. How does it feel when you have to move out of the home you have lived in all your life, just because the neighbourhood you grew up in is a no-go zone after the sun sets? Yes, the moral high ground is a very comfortable place to be when you’re an outsider looking in.
For example, it seems incredible that in Malta in 2018, your children’s life is a gamble when they go for a fun night out in Paceville. Their lives it seems are not all that important for our law courts… If our children happen to bump accidentally into a stranger who happens to be intoxicated up to his eyeballs; him brandishing a broken bottle into your son’s face is really no big deal. According to our venerable law courts, a warning should more than suffice! How many despicable paintings would a convicted paedophile subsequently have painted if the original jail term for his previous crimes was a real deterrent. As things stands, it seems that learning to paint behind bars is seen as quite a reformative measure!
But both habitual criminals and first-time offenders know with certainty that it’s highly unlikely that they’ll serve some form of jail time and if they do it’s only for a derisory, laughable period. The law courts, except for a few magistrates, are making a parody of painstaking police work. The police on the other hand, must bear the brunt of the citizens’ wrath… thousands of decent, law-abiding citizens, who justly believe that safeguarding their homes, their children, their parents and their way of life in general is their sacred right. And when that right is violated there’s nowhere else to seek redress than our law institutions, where not only must justice be done, but it also needs to be seen to be done!