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The Exorcist!

Who would have thought that the death of a young woman after being tortured by her family leading to a trial where the accused were more-or-less excused for the incident would have caused so much trouble? I’m being sarcastic here because this is an issue which should be discussed more and I think a very poor precedent has been set by our legal system which is already seen by many people as being out of touch with reality and more aligned with political correctness than real justice.

I’m talking about the now infamous (in New Zealand anyway) exorcism killing of a 22 year old woman by her family who believed she was possessed by some sort of demon. The prime minister has even made his opinion known that the judge’s decision not to jail the family was justified. He said the killers (note the word) were truly misguided but not malicious and that putting them in prison would serve no useful purpose to society and that they were unlikely to reoffend.

I partly agree. Its true that jailing them would server little purpose but that could also apply to a lot of other people who are jailed for far less serious indiscretions and where they would not be likely to reoffend. I was under the impression that jail sentences were supposed to match the crime, not whatever whim the judge might have had that day. For example, a person who is momentarily distracted and kills someone while driving is likely to get a more serious punishment yet surely they also had no malicious intent.

There are two elements here which might have resulted in this decision. First the family’s bizarre behaviour was motivated through some weird religious belief; and second the family were Maori. A senior opposition politician has pointed out that if the people had been white they would very likely have been imprisoned. Of course, we don’t actually know if that is true but I suspect he’s got a point.

So, even though the current government promised tougher sentences for serious crime (and what could be more serious than spending a day torturing someone then killing them?), that apparently doesn’t apply to indigenous minorities or people with strong religious beliefs. Well, as I said, the (so-called) justice system isn’t enjoying much support and this might be a good reason why.

I agree that jail might not have really made any difference to these people’s future behaviour but they should have been jailed anyway because the message has to be sent that people must be responsible for their own behaviour and even those who are so incredibly stupid that they still believe in demons should not be excused for their disgusting actions, no matter how it was motivated.

This is part of the wider idea I blogged about recently (titled “Victimless Crime” on 2009-08-12). I basically said that religion should be more open to criticism because its only through criticism that deficiencies can be exposed and fixed. I can’t prove it but I’m fairly sure this sort of thing would never be excused if it resulted from bizarre behaviour from any other belief system apart from religion.

The judge said the death was a “product of tragic and random circumstances and not a fanatic ritual”. I wonder if he really believes this himself because it sounds like pure rubbish to me. How can an exorcism not be a fanatical ritual? Come on, of course it was! Maybe the Maori culture academic has it right. She said these people should have known more about their own culture. I guess exorcism is one of the more stupid aspects of western culture so she has a point!

And regarding the Maori aspect of this. Yes, there have been times when our indigenous people have been treated more harshly because they were Maori but that doesn’t excuse the opposite bias now – two wrongs do not make a right (sorry if you believe in affirmative action but I think you’re just wrong).

So maybe I sound like a crazed political conservative here – exactly the sort of person I’m usually ranting against! I guess in some ways I do but I do believe in natural justice and the same laws applying to everyone. Many people see Maori as being given extra privileges the rest of us don’t have (again, the opposite occurring in the past is no excuse) and are quite naturally rather disgruntled about it.

Giving one group special benefits because of their ethnicity, religious or cultural beliefs is no way to serve justice. In fact, quite the opposite is true.

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