Boy convicted of girl’s murder

The British news agencies are reporting that a man of 18 has been convicted of the murder of a young girl at a Christmas party late last year. The man, and his family, are denying that he is guilty. But one issue which has been brought up is that the boy suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a form of autism. I wasn’t in court to hear any of the evidence, but in this case I have to say I remain unconvinced; in any case, British juries have found innocent people guilty on numerous occasions. What I’m concerned about is the inevitable farrago of tittle-tattle about this boy’s past which is likely to hit the papers tomorrow morning. Every time someone is found guilty of a serious crime, the press go into a frenzy of wild details about the convict’s past.

For example, when Federico Arce-Montes was convicted a few months ago of the murder of a young girl in Brittany in 1996, we were treated to a discussion of his unrelated personal failings, such as his obsessive hygiene problem. Arce-Montes was extremely reluctant to eat food cooked by anyone but himself, including his mother, who refused to enter his room, saying she felt a “revulsion”. What they are describing is most likely Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, a recognised mental disorder which, as most of you will appreciate, does not lead people to rape and murder little girls.

What this leads to is the demonising of mentally ill people. People will see anyone they think is acting a bit weird, and assume that they are in danger. I even heard of a case in which a mentally ill man who had been muttering away to himself on a bus who was stabbed to death by a thug who found him irritating; I also remember someone on TV saying that the victim wasn’t an angel, or something like that, which isn’t the point. Mentally ill people are more likely to harm themselves than anyone else.

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