Err, *what*?

15 years for a bit of dodgy accounting? Christ, some people (rightly) serve less than that for murder.

Side note to anyone who lost money in the dotcom/telecoms slump: good, you idiot, hope you suffer. Can’t we change the law so that white-collar crimes only count if they impact on people *other than* greedy idiots who fail to spot an investment bubble after it’s been reported in every newspaper and magazine for the previous 18 months?

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51 thoughts on “Err, *what*?

  1. People who serve less than that for murder aren’t sentenced to less than that for murder. Also, do people serve less than that for murder in New York?

    Which isn’t to say it’s not a harsh sentence, but maybe they’re taking into account his assassination of the Jedis.

    "In April, Adelphia agreed to contribute $715 million to a government fund to compensate investors, one of the largest such settlements to date. The deal involved the Rigases’ forfeiting $1.5 billion in assets to Adelphia.

    Why do you need to give up $1.5 billion in order to make a contribution of $715 million? I don’t get it.

  2. I would be interested to know the circumstances under which it would be ‘right’ for murderers to serve less than 15 years.

  3. Or more seriously:

    Battered wives who sanely and premeditatedly top their abusive husbands?

    An idiot who gets into a drunken fight with another (up for fighting) idiot and ends up topping him by mistake?

    A mother who kills the man who raped her daughter?

  4. Or a doctor who deliberately administers an overdose to a patient who is not only terminally ill (we’re talking two weeks maximum) but in constant physical agony, at her request and with the full support of her family?

    (If I could remember any of the names I’d link to this case – if I remember rightly the doctor got a mandatory life sentence, but it was suspended at the time it was passed).

  5. Or, how about a man who just snaps one day, after years of nestling in the social undergrowth being trampled on every day. His mood darkens, and visions of revenge and omnipotence begin to whp through his mind.

    Before long, he is charging into his workplace, rigged up with an AK-47, discharging bullets into colleagues and bosses, screaming "Who’s the daddy now, huh?"

    I’d say such a person should be let off with a light telling off and no dinner.

    Ahem!

  6. > Battered wives who sanely and premeditatedly top their abusive husbands?

    Back in the days when women couldn’t live alone and divorce wasn’t an option, I’d agree. These days, no. What’s to stop them leaving? It is a good idea to lock up anyone who thinks the best solution to a problem spouse is to kill them.

    Battered wives who kill their husbands while fighting back or defending themselves (i.e., not premeditatedly) are another matter. And, yes, the law which states that running into the kitchen mid-fight to grab a knife constitutes premeditation is bollocks.

    > An idiot who gets into a drunken fight with another (up for fighting) idiot and ends up topping him by mistake?

    Isn’t that manslaughter? Depends on the fight, anyway. Glasgow has the highest murder rate in Europe, largely because of this scenario. The sort of people who get into drunken fights deliberately and regularly and carry knives just in case should be locked up for ages.

    > How about if they were five years old when they did it?

    Nope. What you’re talking about here is someone who is either (a) such a fucking dangerous psychopath that they haven’t even needed time to grow into it or (b) deemed by the court not to be morally responsible for their actions and therefore not guilty of murder. If the court’s psychologists say that the five-year old is morally responsible and knew exactly what they were doing, then, frankly, the death penalty is the best option. And I oppose the death penalty.

    > A mother who kills the man who raped her daughter?

    Yeah, fair enough.

  7. "These days, no. What’s to stop them leaving?"

    Fear that the husband will track them down and kill them? It happens.

  8. Or, in the case of Kiranjit Alhuwalia, having no friends, nowhere to go and an insufficient grasp of the English language to cope on her own – all of which had been deliberately engineered by her abusive husband to prevent her leaving him.

    One of the saddest details of that particular case was her claim that she had a better time in prison than she ever had in her marriage, because at least she could talk to sympathetic listeners.

  9. I say throw the book at the bastids, whether they were guilty or not. The capitalist system has to protect itself, and every now and then, that means finding a scapegoat and throwing him to the wolves, to stop anyone else getting funny ideas.

    The Malaysian securities regulator used to be able to order people to be flogged (even more hilariously, it was able to do this as a regulatory penalty, not a criminal charge and not subject to judicial review). I wholeheartedly recommend that the UK adopts this farsighted policy. You would only need to have one or two insider dealers with the blood running down their arses before the rest got the message.

  10. You would only need to have one or two insider dealers with the blood running down their arses before the rest got the message.

    Isn’t that the sort of thing they were more than used to at public school?

  11. "If the court’s psychologists say that the five-year old is morally responsible and knew exactly what they were doing, then, frankly, the death penalty is the best option. And I oppose the death penalty."

    So hang on, you’d hang a five year old where you wouldn’t hand a twenty-five year old with the same (psychologically determined) degree of moral responsibility and self-awareness? Even though you suggest that the five year old has the potential to become someone entirely different in terms of character and personality (re: your comments on ‘growing into’ being a psychopath).

  12. > a victim of domestic violence is more likely to be killed by an abusive partner shortly after leaving than at any other point in the relationship.

    My response to that fact is to say that protection needs to be improved, the police need to do a better job, etc. Give these women protective custody and security guards and new identities if necessary. I also think, like I said, that she has the right to defend herself, and that it would be a damned good idea to give women who’ve just left abusive husbands weapons training and issue them with side-arms. But you go quite a bit further: you reckon that the woman should be allowed to premeditatedly kill her husband instead of leaving, just in case he follows her and tries to kill her, because he might. Do you extend this principle of pre-emptive murder to other areas of society, or just battered wives?

    I used to have a "neighbour" who tried to break into my house and threatened to kick the shit out of me. Now, if he’d succeeded in breaking our door down while my girlfriend and I were in the flat, I reckon I should have had the right to kill him, since his behaviour was clearly that of a man who might well kill me. But should I have decided to lurk outside his doorway and stab him in the neck one night, I’d expect the full force of the law to come down on me like a ton of bricks, and quite right too.

    Andrew,

    I wouldn’t hang anyone, because of all the problems with the death penalty that we all know so well. What I’m saying is that the best thing to do with absolute psychopaths who have progressed to the killing stage before they’re even ten is to kill them. The best thing to do, however, is not always the right thing to do. In the real world, it’s probably better to lock them up for life, just in case the verdict turns out to be wrong.

    I was brought up with a psychopath, and can assure anyone with any theories about rehabilitation that those theories are bollocks. The only thing that psychopaths do as they get older and wiser is get better at hiding their true nature from those around them. I hope none of you ever have to work that one out for yourselves. Yes, even you, Lorna.

  13. "can assure anyone with any theories about rehabilitation that those theories are bollocks. The only thing that psychopaths do as they get older and wiser is get better at hiding their true nature from those around them"

    Mary Bell?

  14. But you go quite a bit further: you reckon that the woman should be allowed to premeditatedly kill her husband instead of leaving

    Nope, I reckon that in the absence of enough refuges which a) are in locations unknown to the general public and b) are well-enough publicised that all women know refuge accodomation is an option, that from these women’s point of view at least, there’s quite a lot to stop them leaving. Like the fact that, according to the same factsheet, 76% of victims will remain subject to emotional, verbal, physical or sexual abuse after leaving. Yes, the protection needs to be improved – but I’m talking about what stops women leaving now, not in the future when resources for victims of intimate partner violence are much better.

    You asked what stops them leaving these days. Well, among other things, the likelihood that the general abuse won’t stop and the risk of death actually rising. Of course leaving is a much better option than killing one’s partner, and of course I’m not generally in favour of killing people. But leaving a violent partner requires a support network, a safe place to go, and not being terrified that they’re going to be killed if they act. And even if they can gain all of those things eventually, that takes time, while the abuse and/or its effects may be escalating.

  15. > Mary Bell

    Good example, yes. Would you hire her as a baby-sitter?

    John,

    Women who kill their abusive husbands currently get fifteen years or so in jail, but I was responding to your suggestion that they should get less. You’re right: "allowed to" is completely the wrong expression to use, but you are still talking about giving them less severe punishment than other murderers, right?

    Lorna,

    If you’re saying that women who kill their abusive husbands should be sentenced to the same punishment as other murderers, I agree.

  16. No, I’m clarifying my response to your question about why abused women don’t just leave, since you took it to mean that I think something I don’t. I don’t think that, but neither do I think that the view I infer from your argument – that if they don’t leave they don’t deserve to have their circumstances taken into account, because there’s no reason for them not to leave in this day and age – is realistic.

  17. All murderers have circumstances that may be taken into account, and a decent justice system should do so to some extent. But we’re still talking about people for whom killing is the first resort here. If it’s the last resort, that’s a different matter. If it’s spur-of-the-moment, that’s a different matter. If a woman is able to get out of her husband’s clutches for long enough to successfuly plan and execute his death, she’s able to get away from him for long enough to escape him.

    It’s like the rape conviction problem. A pathetically small proportion of rape cases end in successful prosecution, and that’s a problem that needs to be solved. Removing presumption of innocence isn’t the way to solve it, because even rapists have rights. Similarly, drastically reducing sentences for murderers who have been abused by their husbands isn’t the solution to that problem, because even abusive husbands have rights.

  18. But we’re still talking about people for whom killing is the first resort here. [...] If a woman is able to get out of her husband’s clutches for long enough to successfuly plan and execute his death, she’s able to get away from him for long enough to escape him.

    Except that, y’know, 76% of the ones who leave haven’t escaped. Getting out of a violent relationship, especially a long-term one, just isn’t as easy as you seem to be implying. "Well, why didn’t she leave?" is an unreasonable response, because there are a lot of understandable reasons why she didn’t leave. (Please note that I did not say they are reasons for killing someone.)

    In all the cases I’ve read about of women killing violent husbands, anyway, you’ve got a long period of violence first. Seems more like putting up with it for years on end for whatever reason – fear of it getting worse if they did anything, conviction that he’d change, whatever – was the first resort, not killing him. Hence why cumulative provocation is now a defence (in Emma Humphreys’ appeal, for instance).

    Removing presumption of innocence isn’t the way to solve it, because even rapists have rights. Similarly, drastically reducing sentences for murderers who have been abused by their husbands isn’t the solution to that problem, because even abusive husbands have rights.

    Those two situations are completely different. Removing the assumption of innocence until proven guilty for any crime – not okay. It being a fundamental human right, and all. Reducing a sentence based on the circumstances in which a crime was carried out – entirely sensible. That analogy just doesn’t work at all.

  19. "Mary Bell

    Good example, yes. Would you hire her as a baby-sitter?" – Squander Two

    Oh come on!

  20. Chris,

    It’s a perfectly fair question to put to someone who thinks that psychopaths turn into non-psychopaths. Which they don’t.

    Lorna,

    It seems not to have occurred to you that some people might be willing to go to jail for, say, five years but not for fifteen. When you reduce sentences for a particular class of crime, you remove the disincentive for some people to commit that crime. In other words, you’re cheapening the victims’ lives. As a matter of ethics, I agree that the life of a wife-beater is worth less than that of a non-wife-beater. But the law should not encourage people to act accordingly.

    > 76% of victims will remain subject to emotional, verbal, physical or sexual abuse after leaving.

    If the post-departure physical and sexual abuse were such a serious problem, no-one would have felt the need to pad the stats out with verbal and emotional abuse. I’ll ignore any statistics which conflate rape with being insulted down the phone.

  21. It seems not to have occurred to you that some people might be willing to go to jail for, say, five years but not for fifteen.

    It had occurred to me, but I don’t seriously think people kill other people as opposed to walking out of a relationship just because it’s a 5 year sentence rather than a 15 year one.

    If the post-departure physical and sexual abuse were such a serious problem, no-one would have felt the need to pad the stats out with verbal and emotional abuse. I’ll ignore any statistics which conflate rape with being insulted down the phone.

    Um. Verbal and emotional abuse != "being insulted down the phone". Way to trivialise an ongoing traumatic experience. Hell, for 41% of those women, it was serious threats against them or their kids. Anyway, does it not occur to you that maybe it’s things like the verbal and emotional abuse that convince women they deserve the physical, and discourage them from leaving the relationship?

  22. It is not trivialising a traumatic experience to point out that it isn’t as bad as rape. See my example above: my girlfriend and I were in my flat as two big dangerous blokes hurled themselves against the front door, trying to break in. To point out that they didn’t actually break in and they didn’t actually assault us doesn’t imply that the experience wasn’t extremely traumatic; it obviously was. But having someone throw their weight against a door and having someone kick the shit out of you are two totally different things, and any statistic which counts them as the same thing is intended to mislead.

    If a big scary number like, say, 65% of victims were subject to physical abuse after leaving, campaigners wouldn’t have added verbal abuse onto the same figure. That they have says to me that the figure for physical abuse is too low to create the desired impression on its own. That’s really just a basic observation about the way people use statistics.

    > I don’t seriously think people kill other people as opposed to walking out of a relationship just because it’s a 5 year sentence rather than a 15 year one.

    So you think that ten years in jail makes no difference to people’s incentives, yet you think that a five-year sentence works as a disincentive. Right.

    Jails are full of people who decided that the time was worth it.

  23. "Jails are full of people who decided that the time was worth it."

    I would be very interested if this was true. Do you have any studies that I can read?

    Just as you and I are not held back from murder through a consideration of the legal consequences[1], I am not convinced those who do murder perform some kind of cost-benefit analysis.

    [1] If it is the legal consequences that hold you back, you are no better than a murderer yourself, unless we count cowardice as a virtue.

    Incidentally, I am not against the death penalty simply because of the risk of injustice (which is great), but because a powerful state should not begin treating any human beings as trash to be disposed of. Better life imprisonment, justified on the basis of public safety. Furthermore, if a psychopath CANNOT change, then the moral judgement we can pass on their psychopathy is far less than if we could argue that their pychopathy was ‘voluntary’. Which is not to say that as they are the responsible actors in their crimes they should not be imprisoned.

  24. > I am not convinced those who do murder perform some kind of cost-benefit analysis.

    So why sentence murderers at all? And why do so many murderers go to such lengths to try and get away with it? Because they’ve decided that their actions are worth it if they can avoid prosecution but not worth it if they can’t, obviously.

    > If it is the legal consequences that hold you back, you are no better than a murderer yourself, unless we count cowardice as a virtue.

    That’s funny: only the other day you were telling me that we should judge people by their actions, not their desires.

  25. "why do so many murderers go to such lengths to try and get away with it?"

    This isn’t talking about the act of murder – this is talking about what happens after the act of murder.

    re: ‘the other day’. No I wasn’t. I said that there is no significant difference between a romanticist of the Soviet Union and a romanticist of the British Empire. Now, that comparison might be wrong, but if you read it as you have indicated, then it being wrong is neither here nor there given that you were not following the argument.

    With regard to Galloway’s deeds vs. desires, do you really think he wants to commit mass murder and is only restrained by the threat of punishment (as oppossed to social mores, empathy etc.)? You really think that he has the same desires as Saddam and (very differently, I refuse to conflate these) Osama?

  26. Galloway is on record that he wanted the USSR — an empire which imprisoned, tortured, and killed innocent people — to continue to exist. He wanted a system that committed mass murder to remain in place and continue to do so. Of course, he’d probably reword "mass murder" as "social justice", but that doesn’t change the facts of the matter.

    > No I wasn’t. I said that there is no significant difference between …

    Clearly not the bit of your post I was referring to. You said:

    > Galloway has not starved anyone to death. The war has killed innocent people

    If you didn’t mean to compare real-world actions with mere desires there, what did you mean?

    > if you read it as you have indicated, then … you were not following the argument.

    Yet, amazingly, I responded to your argument at the time. It’s almost as if I can read.

    > This isn’t talking about the act of murder – this is talking about what happens after the act of murder.

    Er, no. Many murderers take steps in advance to cover their tracks, establish false alibis, etc. In fact, since we established way up the thread that it’s premeditated murder we’re discussing here and I said twice that I don’t have a problem with shorter sentences for more heat-of-the-moment killings, they’re the only ones we’re arguing about.

  27. It is not trivialising a traumatic experience to point out that it isn’t as bad as rape.

    No, but referring to ongoing verbal and emotional abuse as padding out statistics, as though it somehow doesn’t count when the statistics are measuring ongoing abuse of all kinds, not just physical/sexual, is. Sure, emotional abuse is not as bad as rape. Getting the shit kicked out of you is not as bad as getting killed. That does not, however, mean it’s not worth counting.

    and any statistic which counts them as the same thing is intended to mislead. [...] If a big scary number like, say, 65% of victims were subject to physical abuse after leaving, campaigners wouldn’t have added verbal abuse onto the same figure. That they have says to me that the figure for physical abuse is too low to create the desired impression on its own.

    Not when it’s counting ongoing abuse of all kinds, it’s not. And if you’d actually clicked over to the site, you’d have seen that they then break down the statistics into different types of abuse.

    <cite>So you think that ten years in jail makes no difference to people’s incentives, yet you think that a five-year sentence works as a disincentive. Right.</cite>

    I don’t think possible future jail time is what people are thinking of just before they kill a violent partner, is all. I suspect they have other things on their minds at that point. Kiranjit Ahluwalia, Sara Thornton and Emma Humphreys, to name the three most famous cases, don’t appear to have killed their partners in the certain knowledge that they’d get short untraumatic (particularly relevant in the case of Humphreys) jail times and everything would be okay.

  28. yet you think that a five-year sentence works as a disincentive. Right

    Actually, yes, where the hell did you get that from? I don’t think any jail time has a significant deterrent effect, and I don’t remember saying I did.

  29. > I don’t think any jail time has a significant deterrent effect

    Oh, right. I concluded, when you said that five-year sentences and fifteen-year sentences have the same deterrent effect, that you meant they had some deterrent effect. Turns out you think that if we remove all jail sentences for all murders, the murder rate will stay the same. My mistake.

    > And if you’d actually clicked over to the site …

    Fair enough. I just did. It says:

    76% of separated women suffered post-separation violence. Of these women:
    o 76% were subjected to continued verbal and emotional abuse
    o 41% were subjected to serious threats towards themselves or their children
    o 23% were subjected to physical violence
    o 6% were subjected to sexual violence
    o 36% stated that this violence was ongoing

    So the real figure’s 17.5% — 23% of 76% — but 76% made a much nicer headline figure, just as I said. Also, unless threats are violence, verbal abuse is violence, and emotional abuse is violence, the figures make no sense. In other words, the report’s authors are redefining violence to include non-violent acts in order to inflate the problem. Same as has happened with "binge drinking".

  30. Oops. I’d forgotten that the site actually said "violence" rather than "abuse". Fair point, then, and I don’t particularly like that wording, either.

    That said, I’m not sure you can justify disregarding all the findings of the report just because it’s spun in a way that you don’t like. I’d also still maintain that if a partner still has access enough to someone to be verbally and emotionally abusive, she hasn’t escaped in any meaningful sense.

    Turns out you think that if we remove all jail sentences for all murders, the murder rate will stay the same.

    That may be the "logical conclusion" of my view, which is that, as I said, "I don’t think any jail time has a significant deterrent effect [...] I don’t think possible future jail time is what people are thinking of just before they kill a violent partner, is all". Whether it’s what "I think" is probably between me and any genuine psychics out there.

  31. > Whether it’s what "I think" is probably between me and any genuine psychics out there.

    Sorry, I assumed that the sentences you’re writing up here represent your thoughts. My mistake, again.

    Either jail time has a significant deterrent effect or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, then custodial sentences don’t affect the murder rate.

    > I’m not sure you can justify disregarding all the findings of the report just because it’s spun in a way that you don’t like.

    I don’t think I did. I disregarded the spin, and pointed out that the 76% figure was obvious bollocks, not because it was untrue but because it was deliberately misleading. On closer inspection, turns out I was right. I’m willing to accept the 17.5% figure — the true figure, which they don’t even report; you have to calculate it yourself — but I’ll take it with a pinch of salt, because it’s coming from an organisation who have shown themselves to be disingenuous with statistics and to lie about definitions: referring to verbal abuse as violence isn’t just bad wording; it’s an outright lie. I’d like to see the questionnaire they used, too.

    My point way up there about insults down the phone, by the way, wasn’t that there’s no more to verbal and emotional abuse than being insulted down the phone. I know from first-hand experience that it can be far, far worse than that. My point was that, if a woman has merely been insulted down the phone, the surveyers are ticking the "verbal abuse" box (fair enough: that is verbal abuse), and then, by redefining verbal abuse as "violence" and reporting all the figures for every type of abuse, from verbal through to sexual, in one lump total, they are, in fact, conflating over-the-phone insults with rape — all in order to get as high a headline figure as possible.

    In case you’re wondering, I take the same attitude to all such surveys, even if they support my point of view. Which, come to think of it, this one does. My problem with these people is the same as Spinsanity’s problem with Michael Moore: I broadly agree with their aims, and think that using underhand and dishonest methods brings the cause into disrepute, making the aims less likely to be achieved.

    > if a partner still has access enough to someone to be verbally and emotionally abusive, she hasn’t escaped in any meaningful sense.

    Let me just get my head around this. If a man consistently physically abuses his wife, you think that’s grounds for diminished sentencing and (unless you think Kiranjit Ahluwalia should have stayed in jail longer) early release. However, if a woman manages to get into a position where the husband can no longer touch her physically but is able to verbally abuse her, you don’t think the absence of physical abuse is meaningful. So physical abuse is meaningful but its absence is irrelevent?

  32. "referring to verbal abuse as violence isn’t just bad wording; it’s an outright lie"

    You can be convicted of assault in the UK on the basis of verbal abuse alone. Just saying, like.

  33. That can’t be right, surely. That would mean that some aspects of the British legal system are based on lies, and I refuse to accept that.

  34. Sorry, I assumed that the sentences you’re writing up here represent your thoughts. My mistake, again.

    They do, usually, though I might change my mind later. Your rewordings prefaced with "you reckon" and "you think" don’t often, though.

    Either jail time has a significant deterrent effect or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, then custodial sentences don’t affect the murder rate.

    Okay, and it doesn’t help that it’s one of those things that I’m fairly fuzzy and unsure on, apart from a general scepticism about the "deterrence" approach. More specifically: I don’t think that, when a woman kills her violent partner, the probably length of her jail sentence is one of the major influences on her decision.

    an organisation who have shown themselves to be disingenuous with statistics and to lie about definitions

    Hmm. Will probably have to agree to disagree about that one, since I’m inclined to be generous and say it’s just crappy wording, particularly since the breakdown of the figures given underneath (it’s not exactly tucked away in tiny print in a footnote) probably wouldn’t be there if they were really trying to deceive people lots.

    Let me just get my head around this. If a man consistently physically abuses his wife, you think that’s grounds for diminished sentencing and (unless you think Kiranjit Ahluwalia should have stayed in jail longer) early release. However, if a woman manages to get into a position where the husband can no longer touch her physically but is able to verbally abuse her, you don’t think the absence of physical abuse is meaningful. So physical abuse is meaningful but its absence is irrelevent?

    Okay. It’s meaningful when it’s a mitigating factor in her killing the guy, yes. It’s meaningful in terms of thinking about her absolute quality of life, yes. It’s not particularly meaningful if its absence is used (talking hypothetically here) to claim she’s completely free of him when verbal and emotional abuse are still present, no. Make sense?

  35. > It’s not particularly meaningful if its absence is used (talking hypothetically here) to claim she’s completely free of him when verbal and emotional abuse are still present

    Well, obviously, yeah. But no-one’s making that claim here. What we’re arguing about here is the length of sentence for murder and the opportunities to escape violent marriages by leaving. You brought up emotional and verbal abuse as a reason why it’s not so easy to escape violent marriages. Thing is, if all you’re getting is the verbal stuff, you have escaped a violent marriage, in the only respect that really matters: it’s no longer violent. That’s not to diminish the impact of verbal and emotional abuse, which can be a hell of a lot worse than some people give it credit for, but there’s only so much the law should do. The police are not there to stop people insulting or berating each other. That’s something that most of us — male or female, previously battered or not — have to put up with in life. People are bastards, yes. All of us have a right not to be physically or sexually abused. None of us have a right to be completely free of another human being’s influence. Continuing influence is a problem, but it’s not a legal problem unless it’s dangerous or realistically threatening, and it’s certainly not the same thing as violence.

    I’ve already said that everyone should have a right to kill in self-defense. If a battered wife kills a violent ex-husband who pursues her when she leaves, by all means let her kill him. As you point out, she has entirely reasonable grounds to fear for her life in such instances. But, according to your statistics, 82.5% of such women are not in danger from their exes, so I fail to see why significant leniency should be allowed in cases where she killed him instead of leaving in case he came after her.

    > I’m inclined to be generous and say it’s just crappy wording, particularly since the breakdown of the figures given underneath (it’s not exactly tucked away in tiny print in a footnote) probably wouldn’t be there if they were really trying to deceive people lots.

    Ever written a press release? This is how you do it: you work on the assumption that any editing done will chop stuff off the end of your press release, which is in fact what happens. Editors don’t bother chopping up press releases and reordering them; they just cut the end off — sometimes all of the end. So your first sentence contains the one bit of information you want published above all — in this case, a deliberately misworded and misleading statistic — and you write it in the knowledge that, in many cases, that’s all that will get printed. A lot of professionals put a lot of time into thinking about that first sentence. They are never sloppy about it. If it’s wrong, it’s because it’s meant to be.

  36. Thing is, if all you’re getting is the verbal stuff, you have escaped a violent marriage, in the only respect that really matters: it’s no longer violent.

    Probably another place where we disagree irreconcilably. In my view, that ain’t escape. Someone was abusing her and he still is. (And I think it’s important that it’s someone who’s been violent to her in the past who is continuing the verbal abuse, which is probably going to have a different psychological affect from being harrassed by a complete stranger, and also I think gives the victim more grounds to suspect that the situation will get worse again.) Less badly, but still is.

    And then there’s the fact that, in some cases, the law is there to stop people verbally/emotionally abusing each other. We’re not allowed to harass/stalk people, for instance.

    she killed him instead of leaving in case he came after her.

    That’s a bit simplistic, isn’t it? I don’t think she killed him instead of leaving. She stayed instead of leaving, for various reasons probably including her fear that the situation wouldn’t improve if she tried to leave, and then she killed him because he continued abusing her. Your wording makes it sound as though she decided killing him was a better option than leaving, which I find kind of unlikely.

    Ever written a press release?

    It’s not a press release, as far as I can tell. It’s the middle bit of a page of general information about domestic violence. The press information area of the site, with the actual press releases on it, is elsewhere.

  37. Oh, maybe not, then. The board wouldn’t accept my response, for some reason. Needless to say, Lorna, if only you could have read it, you’d’ve agreed with every word.

  38. I’m experimenting with removing bits….

    > Your wording makes it sound as though she decided killing him was a better option than leaving, which I find kind of unlikely.

    It doesn’t matter whether she decides that killing him is better than leaving or fails to decide that leaving is more ethical than killing him. It’s the same either way. There are certain ways we’re supposed to act in a civilised society, and there are penalties for not doing so. What you’re talking about here is a legal defense of "I suppose I could have left, but it didn’t occur to me at the time, so I killed him instead." Bollocks. I hope you wouldn’t accept that from any other class of defendant.

    Why are you so loath to credit women with the ability to make decisions, by the way?

    > Someone was abusing her and he still is. … Less badly, but still is.

    Yes, "less badly" here means "non-violently", which is what I said.

    > the law is there to stop people verbally/emotionally abusing each other. We’re not allowed to harass/stalk people

    Which is why I said "dangerous or realistically threatening". This just undermines your case, anyway. Yes, there are laws in place that can and should be used to keep abusive exes away from their victims. One more reason to leave and use the law instead of resorting to killing.

    Look, I’ve been in a similar situation myself (not with a spouse; with the above-mentioned psychopath). I had no option of any type of escape for years. I could have killed the bastard; doing so would have made the world a better place to this day; I had the opportunity and probably could have got away with it; Lord knows I wanted to; sometimes I still regret not doing so. I was driven mentally unstable, which maybe could have been used as a defense in court. I’ve never fully escaped, as you so rightly predict, and his existence makes my life difficult — though less so with each passing year. He still gets at me every opportunity he gets. One of the reasons I’ve moved to a different country is to avoid him.

    But, had I killed him, I recognise that the onus would have been on me to avoid capture and prosecution, not on the legal system to be lenient to me. The fact that my life was being made a living hell and I was only barely avoiding suicide does not make it OK for me to kill anyone. The fact that the human race would be better off without that person doesn’t give me the right to kill him. Sure, the ideal option from my point of view would have been to kill him and face no penalties for doing so, but, like I said, there’s more to civilised society than my, or anyone else’s, single point of view.

    Sorry if I’ve piqued your curiosity, but I’m not going to say anything more about any of that now. Writing about it gave me the shakes.

  39. One more reason to leave and use the law instead of resorting to killing.

    Okay. I don’t actually disagree with you that leaving is a better option than killing one’s partner, you know. I just think that if a partner has been abusive over a long period of time, and she hasn’t left for whatever reason, if she kills him after he’s been abusing her, that deserves to be treated more as a long-term provocation thing (as, I think, it is now) than a plain-and-simple murder.

    "Why are you so loath to credit women with the ability to make decisions, by the way?"

    Because I secretly hate all women and have penis envy, obviously. Alternatively, you could explain what you’re on about.

    The fact that my life was being made a living hell and I was only barely avoiding suicide does not make it OK for me to kill anyone.

    Eh. If it helps, and maybe makes me look slightly less ravingly anything-women-do-is-just-fine, I’d probably’ve called long-term provocation on that, too.

    (Can I just point out that we’ve both argued the opposite of what we’ve argued at each other in the past? This amused me no end when I realised.)

  40. Abortion: I’m all "no, she’s perfectly capable of making that decision"; you’re all "but hormones mean her decisions are dodgy". This: I’m arguing for circumstances making her decision difficult, you’re arguing she should just leave.

    Allegedly racist ex-Tories: I’m all "look, this is what the term means"; you’re all "it has other connotations/meanings". This: I say forgiveably sloppy wording, you say deliberately misleading when the meaning of the word is clear.

    I think there may have been a third, but I haven’t had coffee and I can’t remember.

  41. Abortion:
    I fail to see the parallel, unless you’re claiming that having a crap husband causes weird hormonal imbalances that affect your thinking. There’s also the legal aspect: abortion is legal, murder isn’t. In a civilised society, we’re supposed to stop and think "Hang on: isn’t this illegal?" And I wasn’t arguing that abortion should be banned — what I was saying, in fact, was that there’s nothing wrong with the decision’s being shared — but you support a change in the law. We’re definitely on the same sides we were: when it comes to the life of a foetus, you think the mother should decide without any interference from anyone; when it comes to the life of an abusive husband, you think the wife should decide without any interference from anyone.

    Allegedly racist ex-Tories:
    What, are you now claiming that "violence" is a commonly used term for "verbal abuse"? News to me. There’s also a world of difference in the realms of forgivably-sloppiness between something someone says and something someone thinks very carefully before publishing and releasing to the media.

  42. Good grief, chill out. I was just pointing out something that popped into my head and amused me.

    (I’m semi-tempted to get pedantic about the views you’ve attributed to me there, but then I think John really would kill me, if I didn’t commit ritual suicide myself first.)

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