Sunday, June 20, 2010


The setting of the tariff period of a Life sentence is an exercise in placing a numerical value on the life of the victim. The tariff comprises the deterrence and retribution part of the Life sentence.

This has never sat comfortably with me. My tariff of ten years reflected my age as much as any quality of my victim. Today, in the same circumstances, the tariff would be pretty much the same.

And yet, as the news reports that the killer of Sarah Payne has a tariff reduction to 40 years (down from 50), I can't help but wonder about the value of human life. Or, rather, the value that society collectively assigns to life.

Over the past few years I have sat, baffled, as a series of hospitals have killed thousands of people through negligence and ineptitude. I'm baffled as no one has ever been held responsible for these deaths. It seems that society is reasonably comfortable with such deaths being marked by someone symbolically resigning, to take a pay-off and pension and promptly get employed elsewhere in the field.

And yet one man kills a pretty, white, blue-eyed blonde girl with a vocal, determined mother and the criminal justice system undergoes paroxysms of change.

Why, I can't stop wondering, are some lives more valued by society than others? Why is a stabbing outside a pub worthy of acres of print and buckets of outrage, when mass homicide on an institutional level is shrugged off?


  1. Because the shere numbers make it impersonal, so people personalise sarah payne because of the carefully chosen photograph. Whereas a mass killing is just another 100 dead, there is no individual face for people to identify with. Plus the fact of the wrong person getting the fall for the in hospital killing. Over streched, over stressed nurses are merely sacked rather than a reconsideration of the system.

  2. Its exasperating and frustrating too. The system we live under stinks.

    Well over a million innocent people were murdered in Iraq, and what did the person responsible for it say when he was brought to an albeit soft court on the matter?

    He was not sorry, he felt no remorse, he just said they should go and give the people of Iran more of the same mistreatment that was given to the Iraqis.

    He is not only free to roam the world as he pleases, he made so much money from the murderous adventure, he made millions. It is truelly sick of epic proportions.

    I don't know what to say to alleviate the incredulity of the situation we are in, I get comfort at times from the Bible, revelations in particular gives me encouragement that things will and can change for the better and justice will be done.

  3. Because the majority of people who die in hospitals or from hopital acquired infections are elderly. Elderly people don't look photogenic, don't shout loudly and are sometimes a bit mad. And The Sun hasn't picked up the cause either, with the exception of the odd bit of nursing home bashing.

  4. Its the moral panic element, yet as a parent I cannot help feeling that people who deliberately set out to sexually abuse and even kill children are a teensy bit worse than a crap doctor. Its not valuing one life over another, its the intent of the person causing the death or harm....