Thursday, February 02, 2012

so sorry

It was totally out of character and I won’t do it again. I am really very sorry. ….
….. Well, no, of course I’m not but I am saying the right things and, who knows, it may pay off. Throw in a pained expression and moistening eyes and even the best of the judiciary can be fooled.

As a mitigating factor, remorse is a difficult one. Easy to express but much harder to feel, it must count very little towards consideration of any reduction in sentence. The more serious the crime the less weight should be given to any expression of remorse. If the remorse is relayed to the court through a legal representative, rather than directly from the offender’s mouth, then very little weight, bordering on none, should be attached; this is a convenient mechanism to bypass the accompanying body language which is often so revealing. Some defence advocates help by voicing in thin disguise their own doubts: “my client instructs me that he is very sorry for what happened etc”, interpreted by the court as “well he would wouldn’t he”.

The tabloids rightly went wild about the case of Chrapkowski, who, having been asked by a passer-by why he was tipping rubbish from wheelie bins all over the street, repeatedly punched and kicked him causing terrible injuries that he is likely to suffer from for a very long time, if not ever. The puncher and kicker, along with his two accomplices, ran off leaving the victim unconscious and bleeding. Yes of course he deserved immediate custody for a lengthy period; this is just the kind of gratuitously violent crime that a civilised society builds prisons for. No of course he didn’t get it.

His lawyer told the court how sorry he was. It is virtually impossible to be sorry for the commission of such a violent offence, in that if you were able to feel regret for it then you wouldn't do it, and, even in the extremely unlikely event that he was sorry, so what ! The crime was the crime, the culpability was the culpability and the harm caused was the harm caused. Saying sorry, especially through a lawyer, is hardly the point. But, surprisingly, the judge accepted the remorse and suspended the 12-month prison sentence.

But the remorse seemed to have evaporated by the time the offender left the courthouse, when he celebrated by dancing on the steps and punching the air in goal-scoring fashion. So much for his feelings of compassion towards the victim. If the sentenced celebrates a comprehensive victory then the sentence was probably wrong. Relief at a lenient sentence is one thing, but overt and cynical exuberance and ecstasy is another.



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