The big question; the awful question; the one we all avoid; because revenge/retaliation is so strong in some cases that we don’t want to consider right and wrong is, how do we deal with people who commit heinous crimes. Some crimes are so horrible that we sometimes can’t bear to read about the details; highest on this list of crimes are those committed against children and once again we find ourselves confronted with the awful; brutal murder of an 18 month old infant boy Brandon Muir from Dundee; by a drug addicted young man called Robert Cunningham who was his drug addicted mother’s partner. I call him a young man and not a monster and call her his mother and not a monster as the tabloids do, everyone knows that young people like this are part of our society, they; and the tragic broken child are great news for them. “If it bleeds it leads” that’s the motto of the gutter press who will embark on a campaign which will be predictable, it will blame in no particular order; the police, the doctors, the social work dept. it will demand corporal punishment, capital punishment and every other reaction they can come up with, what they will not do is attempt to prevent such things happening in the future, what they will do is maximise sales and others will “chase the ambulance” in a competition to look tough, sadly, very sadly we have been here before, and we seem destined to come back; why? because we don’t care enough to do something about it, that’s why.
Like it or not we have a legal/penal system which is charged with dealing with these cases and handing out punishment to the guilty; whether we think that the system is harsh enough is not an issue; the guilty should be punished and rightly so; in such a case the punishment will be harsh and rightly so but, it must always remain the job of the authorities to decide on the guilt and the punishment, not vigilantes inside or outside of prison. The thought of the life that the child must have led is unnerving and pitiful; I ask myself what kind of existence is it when a young couple can behave in such a way, how can they live like that? How do they become desensitised to such an extent that they are capable of this kind of behaviour, we of course could never descend to such a level could we? And here gentle reader is the part that my enemies have been waiting for, I won’t disappoint them, I will be consistent and say yes we are capable of such things; the reason? You will be ahead of me by now, the reason is circumstances, very few; if any people are born evil; that’s what I believe. The question which sticks in my mind here and I wish it didn’t is; if this young couple had come from different backgrounds, if they had followed a route which began in a stable loving home; to school and then university and on to good jobs, a nice home and stable loving marriage would they have done this to the child? Some people can answer that quickly and firmly by saying their backgrounds are nothing to do with it, I can’t and won’t because that’s the easy way out, no one to blame but them right? wrong.
I’ve been dealing with young people like these for approx. 10 years since I became a councillor and I long ago formed the opinion that we are a hypocritical society. There are lots and lots of young couples like these two and many of them are never more than a couple of hours or minutes away from some kind of catastrophe; society looks the other way and hopes that social services will continue to keep sticking plasters over the lives of those who have no stake whatsoever in normal society, for these people Thatchers maxim of “no such thing as society” has a cruel and unintentional meaning to it.
So then; punish them; make it tough they deserve that but, don’t try to tell me that there won’t be another case along shortly because I can promise you that there will be. There is a conveyer belt of them capable of unspeakable actions because they don’t care, that’s the world they live in, it’s the world we live in as well, just not at the same address, not on the same estate.
The horrible truth of the matter is that had the child lived and become an adult he might have grown into someone like his mother’s partner, lots of his friends as well face that kind of future, these are the facts folks, this is the world that we; all of us live in, we; all of us sustain it, we created it, people created it. When a child grows up in such an environment he/she might some day say “I’ve got F**k all; I’m uneducated, I’ve no job, no money, nowhere to stay, mums on drugs, dads in jail, I’ve got no future so, why should I give a f**k, I will drink or shove stuff up my nose to feel better and; if I fall in the river and drown, who gives a f**k, this is the society we live in, no point lying about it because tragic young victims like Brandon Muir will continue to come along and rub your nose in your own lies.
Either we genuinely start to improve life chances for everyone or we can resign ourselves to periodic outbreaks of synthetic rage and hypocritical breast beating about the monsters in our midst, the truth is that we know that they are there and we know how they got there, we also know the long term solution, can we grab it?