Should "egging on" be a crime?
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Woman who egged on partner found guilty of manslaughter | UK news | guardian.co.uk.
I am sure it is legally correct (as the law currently stands) but is this justice? Even if this woman did "egg on" her thug of a boyfriend, is she responsible for his actions? After all, if she had "egged him on" and he had ignored her, her actions would have been no better or worse. The only factual difference between the two scenarios is in his actions, his choices. For which, of course, he should be held fully responsible.
I remain convinced that (save for such things as falsely shouting "fire" in a theatre with malicious intent) only actions, not words, should be punished. You may say that a mob boss who orders a hit is guilty despite only uttering words. But he is guilty because of the power he holds to compel obedience (or the money he offers to secure it). To equate this harpy with a mob boss is ridiculous. She could, and should, have been ignored.
The very concept of "incitement" is a flawed one. And it is a flawed concept which is in course of being rapidly and dangerously extended. Our legal system believes there are people so dumb that they will hate whole races if "incited" to do so. What tosh. They have the choice to hate or not hate. And if they hate, then they have the choice whether or not to harm the objects of their hatred. I hate Gordon Brown, Harriet Harman and David Blunkett with a veritable passion, but until I act upon it there's no crime involved.
To convict her, the jury must have believed this woman incited her mate. I am sure the jurors were right to disbelieve her story that she was "shocked" and shouting "stop." I am sure the thug's evidence that she didn't want the victim harmed was simply his attempt to save her. They lied, but the fact remains - whatever she was screaming for him to do - he could have said "no." Punish him for his actions by all means, but don't insult him by suggesting he lacked free will. The impulse to violence was his and his alone. She is a total irrelevance.
OK. I am probably far too late to this debate. But I do have to agree with the basic point put by Tom.
He describes it as radical - the idea that we are responsible for our personal choices - but that is only partly true. My own sense, as someone returning to the political fray after a very long absence, is of having gone to sleep and woken up in a different world.
Once upon a time, personal responsibility was far morelauded, far more encouraged. Then... yes... the whole got gradually watered down. Incitement. Provocation. And that one they always talk of when a female partner does something in support of her male other half: co-ercion.
I am afraid I can't quite distinguish all this from clichés like "victim culture" and the after-taste of a certain sort of socialism/rad feminism. Individuals are not responsible actors: they are deterministic puppets, moulded and ultimately unable to break free of their culture, upbringing and immediate influences.
I don't say that such influences are not there. But like Tom, I believe that, to be human, it is our job to assert our independence from them and to make our own choices.
Posted by: John Ozimek | Saturday, March 07, 2009 at 01:08 AM
I guess your big brother is a moron with no will of his own then?
That is why I discuss the three major hypnosis of life: Socialism (feminist rage), Islam (chauvinist rage), Homosexuality (child rage).
Resentment makes us all manipulatable. Sad.
Posted by: Kinderling | Saturday, February 28, 2009 at 06:01 AM
I guess your big brother is a moron with no will of his own then? Sad.
Posted by: Tom | Saturday, February 28, 2009 at 02:23 AM
If I get my big brother to bash you up then I have pulled the trigger. otherwise you would not have got bashed
the rest is talk
Posted by: john malpas | Saturday, February 28, 2009 at 01:16 AM
She called him to come and do violence of some sort. He wasn't even there initially. IMO she was expecting violence and she would have known what sort of person he was and thats why she called him. She and he was not expecting to kill just to injure. But they were OK with that.
This is not the same as a general comment about anything at all. It was aimed at a particular person and it led to his death.
I think that these cases are why we have juries and they can hear the evidence and make up their minds. Although from what I read they both were guilty of their own crimes.
Posted by: Lord T | Friday, February 27, 2009 at 10:38 AM
Thanks for that, Tom. Makes sense.
Posted by: John | Friday, February 27, 2009 at 07:31 AM
Incitement was a common law offence evolved over many years. The courts tended to see the necessary element of "persuasion" to commit a crime as requiring evidence not only of a "suggestion, proposal or request" but also some kind of promise, reward or pressure (as in my "mob boss ordering a hit example"). The logic of it may (as with conspiracy and attempt crimes) have been to allow the authorities to intervene before a "real" crime (in my terms) was committed. The common law offence was abolished in 2007 and replaced with three new statutory offences of encouraging or assisting crime. There are other statutory offences (e.g. incitement to racial hatred). In the case under discussion, one wonders what threat or promise the lady could have been said to have made (actual or implied) to her boyfriend. She doesn't look capable of beating him up and the only persuasive promise she could have made me in his place would have been never to darken my door with her ugly mug again. Maybe the new offences don't require that element? I haven't practised criminal law for more than 20 years, so I will let someone more up to date comment on that.
Posted by: Tom | Thursday, February 26, 2009 at 10:57 PM
Nigel, I appreciate my view is a radical one and that the crime of incitement is of long if not entirely respectable vintage. However, let me quote back some of your own words to you; " In such circumstances, it seems to me that the inciter could be more guilty than those who actually carry out the illegal and violent acts." Can you really mean that? I don't care how good a speaker you are, you would never persuade me to commit a violent act against my will. If I ever commit one, it will be of my own volition and I will accept responsibility for it. I am sure you would say the same. So, if not you and me, who are these creatures who can be incited so easily? I suspect many upper and middle class people think they are the working classes. Certainly incitement's history as a crime seems to have been to prevent the rousing of rabbles. But I grew up among the working classes and never noticed that they were more easily led than others. Quite the contrary. The middle class types who surround me in my profession today are a thousand times more docile and pliable than those among whom I grew up. Perhaps you are thinking of the infamous "underclass?" Answer me this, then. If they can be so easily "incited" - why is no-one succeeding in "inciting" them to take a job, learn French or study mathematics? Answer: because they don't want to. QED. I am coming to the radical view that the whole concept of "incitement" undermines personal responsibility and may have been one of the roots of the current infantilisation of the citizenry.
Posted by: Tom | Thursday, February 26, 2009 at 10:39 PM
I don't think I can agree with you on this one Tom. However, you are a lawyer and I am not, so please do feel free (even compelled) to come back on this: for others if not for me.
My case: incitement to commit a crime is a crime. Incitement to be non-criminally unpleasant (eg hating) is not a crime.
As I understand it, which is only from the newspaper reports, Ms Richardson was accused of incitement. Although she claimed to have summoned Mr Virasami only to escort her safely from the supermarket, other evidence was given that challenged this, and the jury found her guilty.
It seems most likely that Mr Virasami intended only actual (or perhaps grievous) bodily harm. The extent to which his crime was premeditated seems somewhat indeterminate, especially as to extent in time of any premeditation. However, the victim (Mr Tripp) clearly did not provoke him in any way, though Mr Prendergast may well have provoked Ms Richardson.
Given Mr Virasami's intent of 'only' ABH/GBH, a charge of murder is not appropriate. However, that intent in law, as I understand it, makes the crime one of "unlawful act manslaughter".
Given there was incitement, it is up to the jury to decide whether the incitement was to the crime committed (unlawful act manslaughter) or to some other and lesser crime (say ABH). Doubtless a good defence lawyer would make that point. The jury made their decision on much more information than either I or you have available; on what basis are we then to dispute it? I would also expect the judge to set the two sentences taking all these matters into account, though we will not know what they are, probably for weeks.
Your case seems to be that incitement to commit a crime should not be a crime, rather than anything specific to this particular case.
You make the case that her crime only existed because of his crime. I'm not actually certain of that. I can conceive of incitement being prosecuted even though the incited act never took place: and I find that appropriate. [Though I do expect that it is much less likely for such a prosecution to take place than where the crime was actually committed. In fact I doubt the police would take such a case seriously unless it was very prolonged incitement to a more serious crime than a single attack (ABH), with many witnesses who complained, or where the police themselves witnessed the incitement.]
I do think it is the case that incitement can easily increase the chance of the incited crime actually being committed, often from zero to significant. As such, the actions of the inciter are significant, and not immaterial (which is what you argue).
We sometimes have a problem with mob violence, often with political motivation. Do you really wish to make it legal to incite a mob to riot, injure or kill people, and/or damage property? In such circumstances, it seems to me that the inciter could be more guilty than those who actually carry out the illegal and violent acts.
As I said above, do come back on this. Whether or not you convince me to change my view, I think the issue is an important one, and others too would doubtless appreciate any clarification or extension of your argument.
Posted by: Nigel Sedgwick | Thursday, February 26, 2009 at 06:46 PM
The very concept of "incitement" is a flawed one.
Interesting thought. Do you (or any other readers) know anything about the history of the concept of "incitement" in English law?
Posted by: John | Thursday, February 26, 2009 at 06:43 PM