Thursday 5 December 2019

Evelyn Waugh might have invented mass murder at a conference on “reducing reoffending”

I was in Paris and busy when another Islamist atrocity partly on London Bridge took place in the middle of a British election, as happened in the last election. I am pleased that the parties did not suspend campaigning for a day or the BBC suspend political programmes,
as absurdly happened in 2017.

A young Cambridge man, 
Jack Merritt, was murdered foully, stabbed to death, and I offer my condolences to his loved ones. The killer, Khan, whom he had mentored, had hours earlier given a talk about reforming prisoners at an event Jack Merritt helped organise. He bravely tried to disarm him and died doing so.

He worked at the University of Cambridge’s criminology department. The event held at Fishmongers’ Hall in the City of London was called Learning Together and an attempt at “bringing students in Higher Education and Criminal Justice institutions together in transformative learning communities”.

The aim was to form connections that “make society more inclusive and safer by reducing reoffending”. Khan, however, wanted to reoffend. W
ith the mirthless sense of humour of a psychopath he used the occasion to go on what the tabloids call a killing spree. He stabbed to death another Cambridge graduate, Saskia Jones, and injured more people.
Mr Merritt’s grieving father David described his son, a Labour supporter, as “a beautiful spirit who always took the side of the underdog” and who believed deeply in the concept of prisoner rehabilitation.

On Twitter he said: ‘My son, Jack, who was killed in this attack, would not wish his death to be used as the pretext for more draconian sentences or for detaining people unnecessarily.” 

Mr Merritt went on to condemn 'an agenda of hate', but he meant by that keeping terrorists locked up, not the agenda of hatred that drives the terrorists.

His son would not have wanted it, but draconian sentences for terrorism are needed.

People who think like the Merritts, who believe in the essential goodness of human beings, were responsible for the release of the killer and therefore for the foul murders of several people last week, not only Jack Merritt's.

They consider themselves better people than the ones who want to bring back hanging or lock malefactors up, but they are not. They think they are serious, but they are essentially frivolous. 

It is just the kind of appalling idiocy I expect from my university. Mr Merritt's views on prison are very much not appropriate at this time.

These murders are tragic but also blackly comic. I immediately thought of Evelyn Waugh, who could easily have used these events in a novel. So did Charles Moore, who after some thought was put in mind of the “the Lucas-Dockery Experiments” instituted by a liberal prison governor in Decline and Fall, that set prisoners to learn crafts. This led to the murder of poor Mr Prendergast, who was sawn in pieces by a God-intoxicated carpenter. I was put in mind of Mr Loveday's Little Outing, where an amiable prisoner, who has been inside for 35 years for throttling a woman cyclist, yearns for a day out. His wish is granted and he throttles another woman cyclist.

Prisons do a lot of harm, but how we ought to deal with what the Northern Ireland prison service
 used to call 'ordinary decent criminals'  is completely beside the point. Terrorists do not see themselves as criminals. They think they are fighting a war and they are right. They may cease to believe in their war, but they cannot be redeemed by well-meaning people like Jack Merritt.

It is usually awful watching politicians trying to win votes out of promising harsh sentences, partly because we know they don't mean it and won't do it, partly because prison usually makes bad people worse, but terrorists almost always should be kept inside for as long as the law permits. 

The Government is right to put back inside all the terrorists out on licence that it legally can. This is a truth so obvious that it is hidden from clever Cambridge men.

When it comes to Islamists, people should think about original sin and not about redemption, which can be achieved as easily inside a prison cell as anywhere else. In any case, Islamists think they already have been redeemed, or whatever is the Muslim equivalent. 

1 comment:

  1. "Some ideas are so stupid that only intellectuals believe them" - George Orwell