Gee, do you think that the Herald thinks (or, I suppose, thinks that potential readers think) that sentences for violent offenders are too light? I say this as the Herald reports that Jahche Broughton, a fifteen-year-old boy (fourteen at the time of the attack), was sentenced to life in prison with a 12.5 year non-parole period for the murder of Scottish tourist Karen Aim. This screwed-up young man will be in prison for the rest of his youth, until he is about 27 if he qualifies for parole - it is a life sentence. Now, this is neither the time nor the place to get into some sort of debate about the desirability of long prison terms or the justice system in general. I am more interested in the Herald's practice of 'asking the victim' what they think of sentences. I am yet to see the reply, "I think it's just about right."
"Woman beaten by boy who murdered tourist says life sentence is 'too light' for what he did to them" says the sub-headline on page A3. In fact, it is the first life sentence ever handed down to someone so young, so I'm not sure what Zara Schofield has in mind. Life without parole? The guillotine? Of course, it's not fair to criticise her for this - she was viciously assaulted by Broughton, and then had to go through the guilt of seeing a friend murdered by the same boy. But this is precisely the reason why civilised societies are based on laws, not emotions - no victim can be expected to be rational and disinterested in their own case. Only yesterday, the Herald printed this article about the murder of methamphetamine dealer Jason Boon. One person was charged with murder and awaits sentencing, while two accomplices were sentenced to nine (about two Bruce Emerys) and eight years for manslaughter. You may notice that the headline, rather than reporting the verdicts or sentences alone, says, "Fatal robbery jail terms 'far too light'". According to whom? According to the mother of the partner of the deceased.
Of course, people should be allowed their opinions if it helps them deal with their grief - although I am suspicious of whether it does or not. This doesn't mean that the Herald should make this the main thrust of their reporting. If a criminologist, a senior policeman or an experienced judge thinks sentences are too light (or heavy), that may be news. If the bereaved do, it's not. As the saying goes, if the Pope says he believes in God, he's just doing his job. If the Pope says he's not sure any more, then I'm interested. For now, I would be much happier if the Herald left victims alone and stopped exploiting their grief to sell newspapers.