Punishment Beatings Are a Crime on Society

The Mirror (London, England), June 13, 1997 | Go to article overview

Punishment Beatings Are a Crime on Society


I can't begin to tell you how horrified I was to read there have been nearly 450 so-called 'punishment attacks' in Northern Ireland over the past 18 months.

For the purpose of this article I quizzed friends on this subject and an astonishing amount, who I considered to be reasonable and sensible people, agreed with this form of retribution and claimed that it helped control crime in areas of deprivation.

There were several other things which emerged from my foray into the subject, the two most important being the level of social acceptance, and the astonishing rate of recidivism amongst survivors of punishment beatings - showing that they simply do not work.

I am concerned not just with the barbarity of this system or the long term physical or emotional effect upon victims, but about the state of mind of the people who are chosen to carry out the shootings, beatings and torture of an individual who they may know.

I would assume that the perpetrators are all young men, probably in their late teens or early 20s, who fuel themselves with drink and narcotics to give them the bottle to take part in torture.

However they too will eventually become victims, because for the rest of their lives they will have to live with the knowledge that they became savages to impress older male 'role models'. Some day they will have sons of their own and they will be driven mad with the memories of their own inhumanity.

It has been suggested to me that if someone hurt my daughter in any way, then I too would desire revenge on a grand scale. But I would hope that my taxes are paying for the proper forces of law and order to deal with crime, lawlessness and anti-social behaviour.

I would not wish to see any human being tied at the ankles and beaten with sadistic cruelty, which is unimaginable to any person of sound mind.

If I ever desire the perpetrators of any crime to be tortured on my behalf, I would have become no better than an animal and I could never live comfortably within my own skin.

The RUC have a great responsibility towards those of us who demand democracy in Northern Ireland. How can we hold our heads up in the eyes of the world while we allow this savagery to continue on our streets?

No other western society would tolerate such behaviour, even amongst its criminal underclass. Neither should we.

If we are ever to expect peace, solidarity and respect from our European neighbours, then this cancerous tumour of self-styled retribution must be stopped.

I applaud the work of pressure groups such as FAIT and the Phelos Mediation Group who work tirelessly to end the scourge of punishment attacks and are setting up talks between paramilitary leaders and their victims to show that there are better ways of dealing with petty crime.

Most important of all, these attacks are a threat to the peace process. Consequently, none of us can hope for a move forward while they continue.

I understand the police have their own ways of operating, but more should be done to change the attitude of people where such attacks are tacitly approved. …

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