Forget about the criminals, let's eliminate the victims

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The Independent Online
TODAY I was going to say a few words about criminals and crime, but then I remembered the wise words of Michael Howard, to the effect that we pay far too much attention to criminals and far too little to the victims of crime. So I shall say a few words about the victims of crime instead.

For a start, what kind of background do victims of crime come from? If we understood this, could we perhaps arrive at a better understanding of what motivates the victim of crime? For, after all, if we eliminated the victim of crime from the scene, would we not also eliminate crime itself?

EXAMPLE A: Sir Hubert de ------ is 49 years old. He is a recidivist victim of robbery - that is, he has been robbed several times. Every time he swears it will be the last time, but so far he has just not been able to give it up. He lives in a large house in the New Forest, set in its own grounds, which contains a large collection of gold end silverware bequeathed to him by his parents, though not so large as it used to be before he embarked on his career as a victim of crime.

'I come from a small but exquisite family,' he says. 'I was the eldest son and the gap between me and my next sibling was five years. In other words, for a long while I was an only child and learnt the habits of an only child - then along came this blasted little sister and suddenly I had to unlearn the habits of a lifetime, and start mucking in. I don't know if that has anything to do with it.'

A psychiatrist writes: 'No. The crucial factor here is that, as eldest son, he inherited everything, and now has all the family treasures in the house. The house, typically of a victim of crime, has large windows and inefficient locks, so that it is comparatively easy to break in. Nor are the gold and silver treasures securely locked away - indeed, on the day I paid my visit to interview Sir Hugh, I was able to pilfer three very nice silver sugar bowls quite undetected. Eldest children are often robbed more regularly than the younger members of the family. Indeed, often they are robbed by the younger members, and in this case I would interrogate the younger sister as soon as possible.

EXAMPLE B: Jack ------- is 26 years old. In the past five years he has been beaten up badly enough to merit hospital attention five times. He has broken a couple of ribs during these incidents, had hair pulled out several times and suffered innumerable cuts and bruises. He does not know why he is the subject of such violence, as he seems to feel he is a calm and inoffensive person. He is a keen sportsman and plays rugby, tennis and cricket.

'I had an extremely happy childhood,' he says. 'It was a large family, and the 10 of us children were always getting up to little scrapes and having fun. Of course, we did fight sometimes, but knocks and bruises are part of childhood. My father took a slipper to us sometimes. Yes, just a slipper. It hurt a lot, mark you. Later on, I discovered he had filled the slippers with concrete. But it was all swings and roundabouts, and on the whole I had a great time growing up.

A psychiatrist writes: 'What Jack doesn't tell you is that all the assaults to which he was subject took place on the rugby field, and are thus normal rugby injuries. He displays the classic signs of a victim of crime from large families - growing up amid violence, he wants to replicate this experience later, so he joins a rugby club. Many people play rugby for this reason - they want to exchange violence in a ritualistic way. Another thing Jack didn't tell you is that he has been sent off for head-butting three times this season already.

EXAMPLE C: Queen --------- II. This poor lady has been subject to crime all her life. Sometimes she is the victim of intruders who just come and stand in her bedroom looking at her. Last year she was the victim of breach of copyright by the Sun. Recently a castle that she owns was the subject of arson.

'One had a perfectly normal childhood,' she says, 'at the family home which one happened to be in at the time. I had lots of hobbies like normal gels, such as standing on balconies and waving to people, or sitting in cars and waving to people. I suppose I must be quite recognisable to criminals, as my picture is on every postage stamp sold in this country, but on the other hand they used a 30-year-old photo of me to be on the safe side, so it may not be that after all. One is, frankly, mystified. One lives in a perfectly ordinary family . . . .'

A psychiatrist writes: 'This lady is prone, I am afraid, to self-

delusion. Not only is the family she lives in not ordinary, but she is the only member of it who is not divorced. She seems quite divorced from reality, on the other hand. She may have dreamt all these crimes up - and not be a victim at all.'

Would you like to be in our Victim of Crime feature? Just send your name, address and a blank cheque to me.

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