Hard cases make bad law, no doubt, but bad law also makes hard cases. Certainly the thugs of Great Britain, of whom there are now terrifyingly many, may take comfort from the sentences passed recently on two young men, Dejon Thompson and Patrick Rowe, for the killing of a young Turkish man named Evren Anil. The case shows how little thugs have to fear from the law.
Anil, a man of 23 with a bright future, was in his car at a traffic light with his sister when one of the two young men threw a half-eaten chocolate bar into the car. Anil got out of his car to throw it back at them, but one of the young men held a knife to his throat and the other punched him in the face, knocking him to the ground and fracturing his skull. He died of his injuries eight days later.
The two men were each sentenced to four years behind bars, but having already served a year in prison waiting for the trialand having been automatically granted remission of sentence, once a reward for good behaviorthey will get out within 18 months. Anils sister, who not surprisingly has since emigrated, said, If thats the message we want to send out to our kids, then we should stop moaning about people being stabbed all the time.
The judge in the case seemed to grasp neither its depravity nor its emblematic quality. She said to the two young men in the dock after their conviction: The tragedy is that it need not have happened if you hadnt started it or had the courage to walk away. She also condemned their behavior as yobbish and stupid. This is hardly an adequate description of the conduct of young men who carry knives and act in so casually provocative and antisocial a fashion. The incident seems most unlikely to have been a wholly isolated one or an unhappy coincidence, but was, rather, indicative of the young mens general disposition to psychopathic and seriously criminal behavior.
Yet the judge thought, or pretended to think, that the young men posed little further danger to society and that the killing was a kind of accident. And this despite Anils familys complaint that Rowe made gun gestures with his hand toward them during the trial. Was this, in the opinion of the judge, a sign of deep contrition?
If I were a Marxist, I would conclude that the British criminal-justice system is now a conspiracy to keep an ever-expanding class of criminal lawyers in permanent employment.
Theodore Dalrymple, a physician, is a contributing editor of City Journal and the Dietrich Weismann Fellow at the Manhattan Institute.