This week we have a court decision in Canada that for most people was unfathomable; as unfathomable as the original crime itself. A man who beheaded a stranger on a Greyhound bus and proceeded to cannibalize him was given an absolute discharge…yes you read that right.
As you would expect a great debate ensued on social media on the topic as in this case the murderer Vincent Li had serious mental health problems. If you want a great summary of those who support victims then read this Charles Adler blog – http://charlesadler.com/lets-tell-the-truth/hanging-our-heads-in-shame-for-a-young-man-named-tim-mclean/
A couple of points are brought to the forefront in this case that need to be recognized and then dealt with…
Mental health is too broad a term…so broad to be useless from a policy perspective. The difference between personality disorders vs depression vs psychiatric illness is stark and needs to become part of the discussion. How we treat, deal with and punish people in these different categories is very different – yet we talk about them interchangeably.
Victims Rights and Respect for the Dead – defenders of killers almost always start with what about the rights of the killer. Law should be more than whether someone will kill again. How about rights of victims to live new sadder life, not in fear? What about showing respect to the life lost and the soul taken?
Individual Liberty & Rule of Law – Some crimes so destructive to society that It must have consequences for rule of law and liberty of the innocent to matter. If that does not occur then we will end up over time slowly descending back into a society where vigilante justice becomes somehow logical.
People like to make things black and white – how can you punish someone who was mentally ill. As I hope the above three points start to indicate there are a lot of reasons why we need accountability and consequences to people who infringe on other people rights – particularly when they take them completely away by killing them.
My hope is we can begin to meaningfully talk about this topic before we crush any more victims families. In the meantime, I can only express my deep sorrow to the McLean family and let them know we care. RIP Tim and may the system change to protect others in the future due to your murder.