i Editor's Letter: The definition of courage


Click to follow
The Independent Online


Rarely have I disagreed with one of our own columnists as much as I did with Tim Lott's defence of Judge Peter Bowers on Saturday. I see the rights and wrongs of the judge lauding the "courage" of burglar Richard Rochford in black-and-white terms (he was wrong) and many of you agree. However, others see a few of Tim's shades of grey (letters, p14). The debate has inspired some of the more passionate mail we have received.

I have a problem with the word "courage" in this context. You may disagree, but I don't think it is the correct term for a cowardly act. Most burglars hope their victims are not at home so they will not have to deal with possible detection or resistance. Others go armed, be it with a knife or a gun. Most residents – notwithstanding the recent case of the Leicestershire "Ferries" shooting – do not keep guns, or even knives to hand. So where's the courage in that?

Nerve, front, chutzpah, cheek, arrogance, gall … are the words you might use about someone who takes the "risk" of burgling a home – none of these are synonyms for courage. But, these words are: bravery, boldness, fearlessness, mettle, fortitude or intrepidity (that's a word?).

Given the low detection rates, and how lenient sentences are for burglary, the risk isn't even that big. Almost the most alarming thing about the entire recent burglary debate is the universal shared experience. The question appears to be less: is there anyone who hasn't been burgled out there, more, is there anyone who has been burgled just the once?

I'll shut up now, and leave you with someone who embodies the definition of courage (the ability to confront fear, pain, danger, uncertainty, or intimidation) I looked up: glance to your left, and honour the awesome David Weir, one of the most courageous Britons it has been our privilege to feature in the pages of this newspaper.