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May 15, 2013 by Nash Riggins
Today, Home Secretary Theresa May announced to a convention of policemen that the murderers of British police officers will now be given full-life sentences and die in prison – and while it’s somewhat hard to disagree with said policy, Ms May’s rationale for its implementation has left plenty of room for argument.
According to May, it’s high-time that ‘life means life’ concerning cases where police officers are murdered in the course of their duty – why? Because such murders represent an attack on the “fundamental basis of our society”. “We ask police officers to keep us safe by confronting and stopping violent criminals for us,” she rationalises, and “we ask them to take risks so that we don’t have to.” It’s not hard to see where she’s coming from.
Unfortunately, 12 British police officers have been killed in action since 2000 – the latest victims being PCs Nicola Hughes and Fiona Bone, who were shot down in Manchester last year in an unwarranted attack by confessed killer Dale Cregan. Consequently, such attacks must be dealt with using the utmost severity. After all, police officers are the men and women tasked with keeping every one of us safe on a daily basis; therefore, an attack on one of these guardians should be categorised as an attack against society in general. That being said, providing a new mode of justice solely to one commendable group in society completely and thoughtlessly marginalises the risks that are constantly being taken by a number of other everyday heroes throughout Britain.
Let’s talk fire. Just as policemen, we ask firemen to risk their lives on a daily basis in order to keep us safe – and more often than not, they seem to end up defending us from our own negligence. From 1978-2007, 121 British fire fighters were killed in the line of duty – many of which being killed as a result of arson or the carelessness of others. Should those found guilty of manslaughter in such cases not now be held for longer sentences – or even indefinitely?
Meanwhile, let’s not forget what happened across the pond in December, when 2 fire fighters were ambushed and shot dead whilst attempting to respond to a 911 call. Sure, at first glance this comparison seems slightly irrelevant, given that (unlike in the UK) gun crime is practically a religion in America; however, what if it was firemen who had walked into Dale Cregan’s trap last year, rather than police officers? Would their families get the same sort of justice that police officers are now to receive?
Overlooking the shameless political timing of Ms May’s announcement today (it’s worth noting that the Home Secretary was horribly heckled whilst addressing the same convention of policemen last year), this proposal seems very tough – but ultimately fair. Yet shouldn’t it be fair for all? What if a doctor is killed whilst trying to save lives in a hospital? And what happens when a lawyer is murdered trying to save an innocent man from life in prison? The UK is home to an entire culture of everyday heroes, and to murder any one of them should merit the same prison sentence for each culprit. Before Ms May’s new policy is etched into stone, she would do well to take that into heavy consideration.