Crime victims’ groups round on crime victim

Yesterday it was reported that Ian Huntley, the man convicted of the murder of schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman in Soham (a village near Cambridge, in England) in 2002 and who was attacked by a repeat robber who attempted to cut his throat is planning to sue the Prison Service for failing to protect him, and could receive up to £20,000 (although he is unlikely to ever personally see the benefit of it). The Daily Mail also reported that the legal action could cost “the taxpayer” up to £1m. Various “victims of crime” groups have responded to the media invitation to denounce Huntley for bringing the suit, among them Lyn Costello of “Mothers Against Murder and Aggression”, who turned up on Sky News earlier today, “campaigner Ann Oakes-Odger” and Norman Brennan of the Victims of Crime Trust, who said that if Huntley was successful, his victims’ families should sue him.

This last point has some validity, although I would hope that he not be awarded any money. It’s likely to be kept sitting around until he dies, at which point it is likely to be worth much less than it is now, and if it has been invested it is likely to fall to some relative of his. It would be a waste of money. I would suggest that, in cases where a prisoner is in jail for life, a judgement against the prison service for a prisoner likely to be inside for more than, say, 20 years could lead open the possibility of an award in the event of his conviction being quashed, so as to protect those who are convicted when innocent.

However, it is the responsibility of the Prison Service to make sure that prisoners are kept safe; after all, prison is inherently a potentially unsafe environment where almost everyone has either committed a crime or is suspected of committing one. They say that it was one of their members that saved Huntley’s life after the attack and will do again, but if there is a case to answer for negligence before the attack then it needs to be heard. The presence of the “victims’ rights” groups in the media only serve to give the impression that Huntley really had no right to be protected from the menaces of self-righteous common criminals who, as I have mentioned before, tend not to care whether their victims are or aren’t actually guilty. The media have come close to lionising the serial violent robber responsible, Damien Fowkes, with the Sun mentioning that Fowkes has a 12-year-old daughter who “bears a striking resemblance to ten-year-olds Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman” (surely they mean Holly Wells or Jessica Chapman, since they didn’t look much alike):

Fowkes’s stepson Lewis, 19, PRAISED the razor slashing in Frankland jail, Co Durham, on Sunday that nearly killed Huntley, 36. He said: “He did it for Holly and Jessica and I’d like to pat him on the back. Most people will think Damien is a hero. I think he should be given a medal. The only pity is he didn’t do a better job.”

Fowkes, we are led to believe, is some sort of family man who tried to kill Huntley because he identified his daughter with Holly and Jessica. Doubtless he loved his Mum as well, just like the Kray twins. He’s an altogether decent sort of chap who just loves his family and his only crime, according to the Northampton Chronicle and Echo, was to carry out three robberies at knife-point over four days in 2002, on one occasion invading a woman’s home during the night to demand money at knifepoint while he was high on crack and £4,000 in debt to his dealer. He got life, minimum 12 years (which is a common tariff for murder), because of his previous convictions for violent robberies and his mental instability.

Not exactly a multiple child murderer. But not salt of the earth either, and not really the sort of person we want to appoint as the arbiter of who lives and who dies in this country, or even in our prisons. For the press to indulge the likes of him in thinking that’s what he is, or should be, is thoroughly irresponsible.

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