Wednesday, July 26, 2006

"They made me do it!"

When it comes to war crimes it's a commonly held legal principle that the Nuremberg Defence of "I was only following orders" is not a valid argument. Responsibility lies with the one who commits the offence, and blaming someone for telling you to do it cannot absolve your guilt of still actually doing it. Such a principle is sound and ought really be applied to all aspects of the law, however, as I understand it, the invalidity of the Nuremberg Defence, applies only to circumstances where charges of war crime are brought.

I only discovered this after deciding to write a post about the news that sentencing guidlines have changed in cases of teenage robbery and mugging. Apparently, a teenager mugger can now use the defence of "peer pressure" to mitigate their sentence. That is to say, effectively, the Nuremberg Defence will now be used by every single child arrested for mugging. The phrase "he/she/they made me do it your Honour" will become commonplace in youth courts.

This kind of nonsense undoubtedly stems from the Left wing view that the "causes of crimes" provide not just explanation for criminal acts but also mitigate and excuse them entirely. The effect is that future society is growing up thinking that they can get away with anything simply by blaming something, or someone else, for the crime, thereby ignoring their own personal responsibility for it.

What's more, in the specific case of teengage muggings we'll more than likely see leaders of gangs cite peer-pressure by blaming the gang memebrs they're bullying safe in the knowledge that they won't be grassed upon. We may as well just abolish the crime of mugging and be done with it. It would save the court's time and money and the end result would be roughly the same.

Don't misunderstand me here though, of course it's true that the "causes of crime" are important. However, we should be addressing those factors in a broad societal sense, separate from the criminal acts. We shouldn't be using them as excuses for the acts themselves. The law is the law. Break it, you get punished. If we continue down the road of providing circular defences for teenage crime, then surely we hold the foundation and meaning of law in contempt, don't we?


Anonymous said...

"When it comes to war crimes it's a commonly held legal principle that the Nuremberg Defence of "I was only following orders" is not a valid argument."

A little bit of psychology for you, Milgram 1963 did many experiments to try and see if the germans were 'evil' of if anyone could have committed crimes such as the holocaust. The results showed that 67.5% of those who took part followed orders of those above them i.e. in authority, thus in war crimes cases its probably a good idea to charge the organ grinders and not the monkeys.

read more here -

dizzy said...

The fundamnetal difference with Milgram was not whether authority alone dictated human action, but there was also the factor of reassurance. Participants were told the shocks they were administering were not killing the people and it was ok. That is slightly different to marching lots of jews into a shower you know is actually a gas chamber.

snowflake5 said...

Tsk, tsk! Are you not going to follow your dear leader in lavishing love and understanding on hoodies and other teens?

dizzy said...

I think, if you'd read his speech and not the headline that wasn't actually in it, then you'd realise the last paragraph shouws I am. But you knew that.