Rough Justice

A few months ago there was a court martial of colonel in the army. He had been in charge of  a skiing party of officers and other ranks of both sexes. He got drunk, and in front of everyone groped a female officer - for which he was tried and found guilty. He was dishonourably discharged from the army (I think that he was given a suspended sentence) and put on the sex offenders register.

The last seemed to me to be very harsh. Was he a danger to others in the future. It seems unlikely - and though his behaviour was beyond the pale, the Mark of Cain of the sex offenders register seems excessive.

The judges were obviously making the point, with such a draconian sentence, that this behaviour was unacceptable in the armed forces and that drink was no mitigation - a point that they felt had to be made, pour encourager les autres. It was similar, in many ways, to the rough justice handed down to looters and rioters after the London Riots of 2011, when many, with no previous convictions, were jailed for shoplifting a pair of trainers. Natural justice would have seen this as like hanging someone for stealing a sheep in the 18th Century - but this was not a ‘normal’ crime. It had to be shown that rioting and looting are utterly unacceptable behaviour. 

Is this right? Individually no - but for society and its institutions, probably yes. We can feel sympathy for them as individuals - but also relief that this may have stopped us living in a world of anarchy, which is a truly terrible world.


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