I’ve been thinking about why the judiciary’s decisions outrage us at times. This is a complex issue, but nevertheless, I would like to offer some observations on the subject. These are simply food for thought.
It all boils down to the notion that we believe that judges should reflect the society in which they and we live. Whether they should lead or not is debatable. But, in any case, we should feel they are in sync with society’s expectations, which, by the way, are forever changing. Judges should be aware of this and should not lag behind.
When the law becomes a law unto itself it alienates the public which it serves.
If we want society to function then we have to have confidence in our judiciary. Sometimes we are taken back by their decisions and so they owe it to us to explain themselves. We can’t simply dismiss the entire institution as being “an ass”. To call the law an ass is no comfort to us and is too glib. Whether we deserve better may be debatable but we definitely want better than we are getting. The law should be seen to be fair. A big ask, I know.
There are some moral standards which are important to our society and when judges do not uphold these mores we feel totally let down by them.
I will list just a few of them:-
1) The people of Australia want to feel safe in their homes, in their cars, in their workplaces and on the streets. When their safety is jeopardised by a criminal they expect that criminal to be tried, and sentenced appropriately. Here is where the conflict appears. Somehow, the judiciary is giving the impression that it values the well-being of the criminal offender more than it does his victim. Time and time again we see criminal behaviour being excused on account of inebriation or other forms of drugs on the part of the offender.
To that I say, phooey!
The five men who doused the elderly man with petrol and set fire to him actually said, yes, actually said they were bored. Well, gee, you’d better keep your kids occupied and entertained or we’ll all go up in flames. Boredom, apparently, is now a mitigating circumstance.
2) We expect not to have our homes invaded by thieves and rapists and should this occur we expect judges to support our view that our homes are sacrosanct to us.
3) We expect to drive in our cars without someone hooning us, attacking us with road rage or crashing into us on account of being under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
4) We expect to walk the streets in safety without the risk of being mugged or assaulted in any way.
5) We expect not to be abused on account of our race, religion, gender and age. However, we also expect that when a criminal is brought to justice he should not use his race, religion, gender and age as a cop-out. The responsibility is reciprocal.
6) We expect that our children should be protected from assaults and should they be assaulted then we expect the law to reflect these values. We also expect that our children should not be neglected.
7) Most of all, we expect the judiciary to reinforce the notion of responsibility and personal culpability which seems to have been ignored. Quite frankly, we are sick of the excuses that the fields of psychology and psychotherapy have generated from those self-help groups emanating from the U.S.A.
Today, everyone’s a victim, for crying out loud. So if everyone is a victim, then how can anyone be guilty of a crime? “The poor fellow couldn’t help it sir. He’s dyslexic, autistic, has ADHD and repetitive strain injury …and, oh dear, he’s BORED. By the way, he has shown remorse so he’s really a nice guy, after all!”