How long will it be before we consider murderers as being ill rather than being criminal? How long will it be before we medically treat murderers rather than seeking to punish them?
Society’s slippery slope of progressive liberalism that seeks to foster a more tolerant, charitable, humanitarian understanding will, one day, deem that all murderous actions arise primarily out of mental illness rather than from any other motive. Murderous offenders would then be treated as patients rather than as criminals, hospitalised rather than imprisoned.
For many people, this would be an extreme example of how society is going soft, of how society is fawning to minorities, of how resources are being misused, of how human rights are being over-extended.
We see its growing influence all around us. We have to be mindful and respectful of others; we have to be supportive of one another; we have to recognise people’s weaknesses and allow for them; we even look for reasons as to why misbehaviour should be excused rather than holding people to account.
That is why eventually, inevitably, murderers will at some point in the future be excused from their actions. Their murderous act, like a sneeze representing a cold, will be seen as just a symptom of an underlying illness. They won’t have committed a crime; they will have merely had a mental episode.
The logic for this development is succinct and compelling: The vast majority of people do not kill; not killing others is the normal human state in a regulated society; therefore, those that do kill must have something wrong with them.
Whatever their motivation – financial gain, sexual gratification, malice, retribution – the mental mechanism that normally draws the line between what they, as a human being, can and cannot do does not operate effectively. They consider murder to be a reasonable, viable option for them to take.
As our brain stops us from putting our hand into a naked flame, our brain should also stop us from committing murder.
Unfortunately, this fail-safe guard against heinous crime seems to be lacking in a tiny minority of people. They are neither put off by the physical act of committing murder nor by the legal and moral offensiveness of the deed. That is why we have to consider them as having something wrong, as being ill. They have a mental deficiency or frailty which means that their brains do not compute like the rest of us.
And, just like having a broken arm or an asthmatic breathing difficulty, it is treatment that is required to correct their condition. Failure to treat means there is little chance of any return to health.
Following this argument, murderers shouldn’t be locked up but should receive counselling and other psychiatric therapies. Their murderous action was not their fault. It results from a poor, weak or broken mental condition. They have to be cured, not punished.
Historically, this is not the way society has generally treated murderers. Penal sentences or capital punishment are our normal response to serious crime, though perhaps these are more emotive sanctions rather than arising from a more considered, rational appraisal. Imprisonment is about justice, revenge and punishment. If somebody does something wrong then they must be punished for it.
Within the legal system there already exists some recognition of mental deficiency as being a reasonable defence:
- A plea of “Insanity” – argues that the defendant did not understand what he was doing or did not recognise that what he was doing was wrong. In such proven cases offenders do tend to be hospitalised rather than imprisoned.
- A plea of “Diminished Responsibility” – argues that although the law was broken, the defendant cannot be fully criminally liable as his mental functions were diminished or impaired. He is effectively arguing that due to an abnormality of mind his ability to take responsibility for his actions was limited. In such proven cases, offenders tend to be convicted on the lesser charge of manslaughter rather than murder.
Having a mental impairment begins as another defensive argument, another excuse for bad behaviour – just like drug and alcohol abuse, a poor upbringing, unemployment, peer group pressures and a lack of social support.
Ultimately though, there will be no defence required. The very act of committing murder will signify that an individual is mentally flawed and that medical treatment rather than any punishment should be applied.
And, of course, if murder is to be considered as a mental illness, what about other crimes? What about all crime?
Society is good for us. Why would an individual want to challenge it by breaking any of the rules? You think you can do better by doing your own thing? You think the rules don’t apply to you? Well you are mistaken. Society exists for the greater good; the greater good is something we are all a part of.
If you break the rules of society, you challenge the very structure that protects and supports you. You can’t be thinking straight. There must be something wrong with you.
The taking of another life is perhaps the most extreme of offences. When up against the liberalising onslaught that currently pertains there is a distinct logical progression to accepting and excusing the murderous act itself and, instead, recognising and treating the issue that brought about the murder in the first place.
That’s why, one day, all murders will be treated as mental rather than as criminal matters.