Shetlanders are a fairly liberal bunch in my experience (liberal with both peerie and muckle Ls), but the anonymity of Internet forum opinion spoutery seems to bring out a bloodthirsty side in some Shetlink members. During recent discussions on criminality and the punishment of baddies, I was surprised to see how many Shetlinkers support the death penalty and espouse draconian views on the meting out of 'justice' to wrong do-ers. But the slant some Shetlinkers took on a recent national news story got me to thinkin'….
The media furore surrounding the release and subsequent attempted deportation of Learco Chindamo (teenage killer of headmaster Philip Lawrence in 1995) reminded me of certain aspects of the Home Office's attempt to deport Sakchai Makao.
The two men had been convicted of a youthful crime, although the severities cannot be compared, and the judiciary had ruled that both (model prisoners, unlikely to re-offend by all accounts), having served the appropriate sentence and paid their dues to society, could go free.
However, both men were foreign nationals, but had lived in the UK since they were children, had family and friends in the UK and little or no ties to their country of birth. The Home Office attempted to deport each of the two men on the basis of their previous conviction, but were blocked by Asylum and Immigration tribunals on legal and human rights grounds.
There has been little national sympathy for Mr Chindamo's case, compared to the overwhelming support shown for Mr Makao; the knee jerk reaction was that Mr Chindamo has waived his rights and should be sent back from whence he came, whereas Mr Makao served his time and should be free to stay in the community in which he grew up. Hypocrisy?
The point I'm endeavouring to make is; at what stage does someone surrender his or her human rights, or right to a fair hearing? Is there a sliding scale along which you slip according to crimes and misdemeanours committed, or is there an absolute set of unalienable rights and justices to which every human being is entitled? I, as a liberal and Liberal Shetlander, believe the latter.
As an aside, the same red top newspapers who have been complaining loudly about Learco Chindamo's release and stirring up the maddened mob are now plutting that millions of pounds per year must be spent on hiding his identity from said media and mob. Oh, the irony.
And finally, as per, if you have comments on anything in this here rag, get yersel over to www.shetlink.com and leave your feedback. Till next month, Godspeed dear reader….
Article for Shetland Life magazine - September 2007