"We are doing something," replied the Minister.
"What exactly are you doing?" was the response to that.
The heated argument became more intense in this private meeting with the agrieved parents of a murdered child.
"You have to understand..."
"I do understand. You are not doing anything, though you try to justify inaction with words. You say our prisons are full up. So what? Build more prisons."
"It's not as simple as that."
"How can it be difficult to understand that if there are not enough prisons then the small number that there are will obviously be inadequate. Justify not sending people to prison because there aren't enough prisons."
"No, that's not right."
"But that is what you are doing now. You've said nothing. Typical political non-answers. Attempts at appeasement."
"Stop right there, you are starting to become offensive."
"Really? And it's OK to let out killers to kill again? You are offensive by assuming people don't care or have forgotten. You insult people every day by releasing dangerous people early back into society. The courts give out a prison sentence and this is instantly disregarded. You all know that this sentence will almost never be spent in prison in its totallity."
"Criminals need some hope to exist..."
"Do you think I care if a killer is having a bad time? We are having a bad time. My wife and I are having a very bad time. Coming to terms with the death of our beautiful daughter. Murdered by a killer released back into society after only 5 years of a 9 year sentence. The sentence was totally inadequate in the first place. Recently, a man was released after 25 years of an indefinite sentence for attempted murder. Attempted. The tariff should have been around 10 years, but he was released only after the Court of Appeal ruled that a micarriage of justice had taken place. This was only because of an investigation by the Criminal Cases Review Commission. He'd have got less if he'd admitted the crime. He refused as he hadn't committed it and it transpires that the police 'fitted' him up. They've since retired and are allowed to get off with nothing. For what they did? Perjury. Perverting the course of justice. Being responsible for locking up an innocent man for 25 years. Nothing? I can't find words to express my disgust, but I do hope the guy gets £50m compensation. And add to that those guilty officers' collective pensions. I am not joking. They must not be allowed to enjoy the rest of their life."
"Long term imprisonment is hard and these offenders need hope."
"Prison is hard? That's the whole idea so that we take care not to do things that might mean being sent there. It was obviously not hard enough for the bastard that murdered our daughter. You've created a situation that needs to be resolved. Real action. And it seems it is to be my task to do your job for you. Effectively."
"What are you suggesting? Revenge?"
"I can say anything I like at the moment, but like you until I am seen to do something, it is just words."
"The courts are a very expensive method of seeming to do something. The fines that are extracted simply go to help finance court costs. No prison or detention in most cases, so no costs to the State. No need to build more prisons as nobody is going there. Those already there will eventually be let out earlier and earlier, the sooner the better so freeing up spaces. The original sentence is obviously only a recommendation from a judge that means nothing really. It is a cosmetic sentence to appease the public at the time. Most people forget as their interest is only very short term. Maybe days or certainly a few weeks at most."
"You are being inaccurate."
"Tell me how I'm being inaccurate and give me information - real information - I can verify. I want to be wrong. I just think I am not wrong."
© Louis Brothnias (2005)