Anthony Daniels: Murder is murder, whatever the victim's character

We don't believe in the Immaculate Virgin, but we do believe in the immaculate victim

Share

Sentimentality is the tribute that indifference pays to feeling. It is to compassion what clichés are to thought. Unfortunately, there's a lot of it about.

Lampposts close to the site of fatal accidents are nowadays festooned with memorial flowers (always still in their cellophane wrapping), to show that the deceased's friends really, really, really, really miss him, and not just really, really, really miss him.

Whose job, one wonders, is it to take the flowers away again once they've rotted? Apparently, nobody's: I've noticed some memorial flowers round here (where I write this) that have been there at least three weeks, and now look shabby. Who would really, really, or even just plain really, want to be memorialised in this way?

Sentimentality has invaded murder trials, it seems. When the two young killers of Mr ap Rhys Price had been convicted, but not yet sentenced, the victim's fiancée was permitted to have a victim impact statement read out to the court.

What was the point of the victim impact statement in a case like this? It is unlikely that two young men who killed in order to feel big and possess themselves of a man's mobile telephone would develop deep remorse as a result of listening to it: indeed, it might flatter their psychopathic self-importance.

And one would hope that it did not influence the judge's sentence: for the point is not that the two young men murdered someone who was charming, well-educated, intelligent, witty, talented, good-looking, and with a brilliant future before him, but that they murdered.

Likewise with the personalities or character of the five prostitutes murdered in Ipswich. We have been treated to various public statements about how golden-hearted and caring they were, but is there anyone who, in the recesses of his own (perhaps not so golden) heart, actually believes this? Crack-addicted people seldom behave altogether well; indeed, they are notorious more for their self-absorption than other, better qualities.

We have been repeatedly told that they were "driven" on to the streets by their addiction. Actually, if they were driven by anything, it was the false belief that they were driven by their addiction and could not help themselves, a false belief that is assiduously peddled by the supposedly caring professions.

It is nonsense to say that addicts cannot help themselves; the fact is that many addicts abandon their habits spontaneously, without any assistance whatsoever. They do this when they decide that they have something else, and something better, to live for: the problem for many addicts is that they do not have this something. But that is not the same as an irresistible drive that comes upon them as a fit comes upon a man with a brain tumour.

It is true that most, though not quite all, crack or heroin-addicted prostitutes come from terrible family backgrounds but there is no background that means that girls who emerge from it can do nothing with their lives but become such prostitutes. If it did, there would be far more crack-addicted prostitutes than there are.

The problem with all the sentimental gush is that it makes us lose sight of what is important: that five young women were murdered, and that this would be equally wrong whether they had the most golden or the blackest hearts, whether they were as compassionate as St Francis of Assisi or as selfish as Uriah Heap. Their personal qualities are irrelevant. Murder is murder, and the law is the law.

We don't believe any longer in the Immaculate Virgin, but we do believe in the immaculate victim. The problem is that it is impossible for human beings to see everyone as a victim. The murderer of the five girls, whoever it is, suffers almost by definition from a compulsion equal in strength to that which allegedly drove the young women out on to the street; perhaps he even has a heart of gold. In fact, we can't keep the pretence up, so the world is divided into immaculate victims and villains who are responsible for their misdeeds. The world becomes for us a Victorian melodrama.

There is a bullying nature to modern sentimentality, such that one is almost afraid to dissent from it, for fear of being thought an Enemy of the People. Even the Queen was bullied into it after the death of Diana, when she was more or less forced to extol her former daughter-in-law in public. Now, either the Queen felt grief at her death or she didn't. If she did, we demanded to obtrude upon her grief; and if she didn't, we demanded that she pretend that she did, that she shared our ersatz emotion. Either way, it was shameful.

By the way, I have a heart of gold - as I am sure you have, too.

The writer is a former GP and a prison doctor

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Support, Help desk)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Learning, SQL, Brokerage)

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...

UNIX Application Support Analyst- Support, UNIX, London

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: UNIX Application Support Analyst-...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US  

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Robert Fisk
 

Next they'll say an independent Scotland can't use British clouds...

Mark Steel
Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape