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Noumenon 20th Aug 2009 17:26

Lockerbie Bomber and Early Prisoner Release
Okay, this actually is something in the news worth discussing. Summary: the Lockerbie bomber has terminal prostate cancer and is only expected to live for around another three months, so he has been released on compassionate grounds and will be able to die close to his family in Libya.

I think this does the Scottish justice system a lot of credit. In no way are they saying he deserves compassion, but by granting it anyway they demonstrate something extremely valuable and, I would say, representative of a mature society. However some of the families of those killed (and the US administration too) find it quite appalling that he should walk free, and sound pretty displeased with the Scots for taking the position they have.

Any thoughts?

Stewart 20th Aug 2009 18:35

Re: This is the News

Originally Posted by Noumenon (Post 111486)
Any thoughts?

If he's going to die, it would be a better use of resources to ship him home. The relief from no longer imprisoning him would be of huge benefit in this penny pinching climate. He is a costly prisoner, and lives in relative luxury compared to other prisoners: he has a cell to himself, gets Arabic telly, gets Arabic papers. All he really needs is a PlayStation. Since they reckon he'll die within three months anyway, what need is there to waste prison money, hospital money, and court money to keep a man that death won't let us keep?

Daveybot 20th Aug 2009 18:43

Re: This is the News
It's been in the news a lot here.

What I wondered was, is this a typical course of action? You know, if a(nother) mass murderer - for example - is about to die in prison, are they normally let out just before the inevitable? If so, I see no problem. If not, uhhhh, well, I think I might. I'm not entirely sure. On the whole, I think I agree with you Nou, but if I was a relative of one of the hundreds he killed I can easily imagine feeling differently. Or even possibly just on behalf of them. Agh, I don't know.

I don't really know the details or understand the issues. Think I'll stay out of it.


Noumenon 20th Aug 2009 19:24

Re: This is the News
Well, you've basically spotted the objection I would probably have made if I'd thought about the subject a little more deeply. So I'm glad you popped into it.

John Self 20th Aug 2009 20:27

Re: This is the News
Yes, the difficulty is that if Harold Shipman - who had a similar murder tally - was still alive and in jail, and had been reported to be terminally ill, would he have been let out to die with his family? I don't think so.

The other potential problem is the Saunders effect, as when Ernest Saunders was released 10 months into his sentence after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease - from which he subsequently made a full recovery, and continues to live in liberty 18 years later (though he would have been out in 2 and a half years anyway, so it's not really comparable). I'm guessing prostate cancer is less easy to fake.

Colyngbourne 20th Aug 2009 23:45

Re: This is the News
And similarly Ronnie Biggs being released on compassionate grounds. I don't think either should be freed.

JunkMonkey 21st Aug 2009 1:49

Re: This is the News
As I understand it there are real doubts as to whether Megrahi was involved in the Locherbie bombing he certainly has always protested his innocence - but surely the point here is that by releasing this man we (Scotland as a Nation) have lived up to ideas of compassion, forgiveness, and, incidentally, not being bullied by those more powerful than ourselves, and done the right thing. We are better than them - the bastards who blew up that plane and all the other thugs and murderers who pretend to Holy causes. What's the point of 'defending our way of life' and 'being right' if we don't do ever do the right thing?

Colyngbourne 21st Aug 2009 8:22

Re: This is the News
I'm asking because I'm still uncertain on this score - I feel what you say is right in very many ways, JM, but is there a difference between this case and the Ronnie Biggs case? If there are real doubts, which I agree there seem to be, Megrahi should be freed on those grounds as well. Is it the terminal-ness or the doubtness from which springs the compassion, or both? Does regret count? Should a response to a convicted killer who shows regret for their actions invite a compassionate response more than for one who doesn't? Does the public require this response before it chooses to be compassionate, or is it saying something about society if it shows compassion to someone who does not regret the criminal actions they took? I'm finding it confusing to wade through, and regret my simple statement two comments above, but won't edit it.

MikeMk1 21st Aug 2009 9:28

Re: This is the News
I think a lot depends on how you view punishment.

If you see punishment as being exactly that, a way of punishing an individual for his crime, and no more, then the right decision has been made. There are of course problems in making the punishment fit the crime (ie does theft warrant a slap on the wrist, a fine, or, if you are unlucky to have committed it in Somalia, public mutilation), but essentially you pay your dues and walk free. Does a man with terminal cancer warrant further imprisonment just to complete a judicial sentence?

Alternatively, if you feel that punishment contains an element of either society's revenge, or revenge on behalf of the victim, then I can see why you want the sentence to be carried out in full, whatever the personal circumstances.

My own view is toward the former. I think a very brave decision has been taken, but ultimately shows that the State (and its judicial system) is above revenge, and that compassion (in whatever form) can prevail. Mercy is a very powerful tool.

Of course, the financial impact will have been considered (and is a bonus), and I suspect that feeling amongst the world's Muslims will have improved ever so imperceptibly towards this country as a result.

ono no komachi 21st Aug 2009 10:10

Re: This is the News
A couple of observations to make on this:

On R4's Today this morning, Alex Salmond claimed that according to criteria used by the Scottish justice system for release on compassionate grounds, it would have been unusual (his actual word was 'unprecedented' which I must admit had me raising my eyebrows quizzically) for Megrahi not to be released. Which implied to me that life prisoners being released when terminally ill perhaps happens more often than I might imagine.

David Cameron's soundbites on the subject yesterday were along the lines of 'But what about the victims of the Lockerbie bomb? They didn't get to die peacefully at home with their families.' Which is relevant if you have an 'eye for an eye' view of the justice system. I can't say this argument is not persuasive because it does appeal to my gut feeling that someone who does something monstrous should have something monstrous happen to them. However, I find more persuasive the idea that those administering justice should be governed by intellect and not emotion, and agree with JM that by doing the compassionate thing in this case, the Scottish authorities have perhaps demonstrated qualities more desirable than political expediency and the need to punish to the exclusion of human sympathy.

I'm still a bit ambivalent about the rightness or otherwise of the decision, but can't help factoring in the possibility of doubts over his original conviction, particularly after hearing his solicitor this morning explain the reasons for dropping the appeal proceedings. He presented it as Megrahi having a choice between remaining in prison and continuing with the appeal proceedings with a view to being cleared posthumously; and having a chance of being released on compassionate grounds.

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