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What price an innocent life?

5 December 2014

What is the value of a human life?

It's impossible to measure that value in dollars and cents or by any other metric. Its value is indeed immeasurable and that is why we impose such harsh sentences for murder. Indeed, some countries still have the death penalty for those who are found guilty of taking another's life.

Now I'm not a supporter of the death penalty -- it is the ultimate in hypocrisy and a blatant abuse of power.

However, I do believe that someone who murders another in a blatantly violent and inhuman way deserves a whole lot more than just two years behind bars.

However, a judge right here in New Zealand thinks otherwise.

According to this NZH story, the life of Terry Smith is worth less than three years in jail for those who performed the murder.

The family of the victim are outraged, and quite rightly so.

We have many people in prison right now who have received far longer prison terms for non-violet crimes such as robbery, fraud etc -- where all that was lost was money, something that, unlike a life, can be replaced. To give such a token sentence for the taking of a human life is hardly justice.

But it gets worse...

Mr Smith wasn't just killed quickly and cleanly -- he was soaked in petrol and set alight. He was burned alive.

That is not a death you would wish on your worst enemy, let alone an innocent person.

The fact that the murderers have over 100 previous convictions (many for violence) between them further makes a mockery of the judge's contempt for the concept of justice in this case.

The crown's perspective appears to be that it would have been too hard to obtain a conviction for murder so they settled for a lesser charge and a joke sentence -- I'm sorry but that is simply not acceptable.

I'm sure that in the world of serious crime, people are looking and learning...

If you want to kill someone, don't shoot them, stab them or bludgeon them to death, possibly risking a jail term measured in double-digits. No, simply set them on fire and you'll get a couple of years in the slammer then be free again.

Of course it is always dangerous to criticise a decision of the courts based only on a newspaper report but I find it very, very hard to imagine any mitigating circumstances that would justify such a wimpy punishment for such a heinous crime.

What do readers think?

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