Regardless of the country in which we live, there are always international stories and events which help to inform and promote necessary debate amongst society. The online revolution has helped significantly to draw together the people of the world in a global community and achieve this, and made the processes of sharing information and images both easier and more relevant. This week, an incident in Spain has raised significant international dialogue, concerning the accepted ineffectiveness of justice and the increasing risk of reprisal in society.
In Spain, a court has agreed to grant a full pardon to a women who set fire to and killed the convicted rapist of her daughter in 1998. The incident occurred when the felon, who was sentenced to 9 years for his assault on the 13 year old minor, was on an approved 3 day release from his sentence and approached the mother at a local bus stop to enquire about his victims welfare. Indignant, she returned home to acquire some petrol and later accosted him in a bar, before she inflicted the injuries which ultimately caused his death 10 days later.
The Inadequacies of Justice
After being originally sentenced to 7 years in prison, the woman in question had this reduced to 5 years upon appeal, before a 5000 strong public petition and lobbying secured her release after a solitary year in captivity. With a full pardon due to be confirmed shortly, it would seem that the defendant will be absolved of a crime that was allegedly committed in a state of temporary insanity. While much of the discussion has centered on whether victims should ever be allowed to administer a personal brand of justice, more should be done to address the failures of the courts in the first instance.
Though the idea of a 9 year sentence for the original crime may seem inadequate in the first instance, there is a more significant issue about the incident. It is wholly inappropriate that a perpetrator of an impulse or sexually motivated crime should be afforded any description of day release, especially one that is unsupervised or well regulated. As a criminal his actions are the responsibility of the government and judicial system, and his afforded freedom reflects little understanding of the nature and motivation of his criminal activity.
Not only this, but the perpetrator was allowed to return to his home town and scene of the original crime, without any significant warning to the victims family or the surrounding society. This is a failure of justice and law enforcement entities that seek to protect their citizens, and an unwitting elevation of the rights of a criminal beyond those of their potential victims. While the idea of granting convicts day release is often supported to aid rehabilitation and re-adaptation to civilized society, this should never come at the expense of those who have been wronged or may fall vulnerable to ill intentions.
The Issue of Individual Justice
There are opposed opinions with regards to the actions of the original victims mother, Maria Carmen Garcia, and whether the punishment she was handed in her initial sentence was just and warranted. There are those who claim that regardless of the provocation, a civilian member of society should never be permitted to uphold their subjective view of the law or administer individual justice, as this would set a precedent for instances of reprisal and lead to a lawless society. However, others feel that cases should be judged on their individual merits and that compassion should be applied where relevant.
The latter view is hard to dispute, especially where the judicial system bares a large portion of the responsibility for the crime. Indeed, it is difficult to be too critical of either Garcia or her victim in her act of reprisal, as the whole incident would have been avoided if the original sentence had been upheld to the letter or his afforded release was well managed and suitably structured by officials. To simply allow a convicted rapist to approach his victims mother without forewarning or discussion is hugely inappropriate regardless of his intentions, and ultimately placed Garcia in a situation which she was unprepared for and therefore subject to an intense and understandably emotional response.
While some may dispute that he was seeking closure for his crimes by approaching her, this is largely irrelevant when you consider her vulnerability and scepticism when met with such an unwanted intrusion. The unexpected nature of the confrontation and the intense emotion it will have provoked, regardless of the minor element of premeditated action on Garcia’s part, must be considered in terms of her punishment. Her reaction was based upon a well founded sense of injustice and bewilderment, and therefore her pending pardon is a suitably compassionate course of action from the officials.
Not an Act of Premeditated Malice
It must be accepted that the crime of Miss Garcia was far from premeditated, as she had no knowledge that the convicted felon would approach her given his incarceration. Subsequently, it is not a case of an individual seeking and administering retribution for a crime that was dealt with by the judicial system, as she made no attempt to seek out her target and initiate any form of physical contact. Her freedom should not be question, and nor should any significant discussion take place concerning citizens and their own implementation of the law. Instead, the focus should be the justice systems across the globe and how they can best serve their societies.
The secondary incident and actions of Miss Garcia could have been avoided, solely through a more rigid sentencing structure and a strict management of any agreed temporary release into civilized society. This is a lesson that can be learned globally by justice officials, especially with regards to minimizing instances of premature release from prisons and also making any such decision in line with the severity and exact nature of the crime. By doing this, the well being of society is maintained as much as it possibly can be, and individuals have no need to take justice into their own hands.