“The magistrate had learned that I’d ‘displayed a lack of emotion on the day of my mother’s funeral’...then he asked me if he could say that I’d controlled my natural feelings that day. I said, ‘No’, because it’s not true...Do you want my life to be meaningless?’ he cried. As far as I was concerned, it had nothing to do with him so I told him so’..”You do believe and put your trust in him (God), won’t you?’ I obviously said no. He sat back in his chair”’.
So says the magistrate to Meursault in Albert Camus’ the Outsider. The judge is somebody who has something many do not; that is autocratic and despotic power and control. This is not just the judge or magistrate as represented in the Outsider, but of judges in every society. At times, they know they are sentencing people to years in prison, and worse, condemning them to death, even, at times, they are aware the defendant has done no wrong; they are simply innocent. They, in essence, have total control over the lives of others.
The power they have must not be underestimated. It must be made clear these judges, once in court, can send anyone to prison whom they wish whatever reason they choose to invent. Before, men have been sent to prison for yawning. The police officer trembles in front of the judge as they make statements and act as witnesses; the same is true of barristers and of course, the defendant. When this same defendant is sentenced to a period in prison the judge can decide on a number of things: they decide how long they spend in prison, how long they will spend on probation, whether to take the remand time of their sentence; what prison to send them to; what conditions, what long-term conditions they will be subject to once they leave prison. These are just some of the decisions a judge can make.
Nevertheless, as it should be known, their power is far greater than this. It is they who can decide whether a case can go to trial, whether the media are able to print and reveal names of the defendants, and to shield the alleged victims or not as the case may be. In fact, the judge must determine every aspect of the case, and all this, so we are told, exists in social democracies. This is what we may call absolute power. But the potent empathy in judges lies in the fact that they are perfectly content to see innocents locked up, as well as those committing the most minor misdemeanours, but often spend many years in prison and are therefore subject to psychological torture, and sometimes even worse. They are paid handsomely for these services, and during that time, as indeed after it, sleep serenely at night-time, or indeed, any time. Their victims’ voices silent, their suffering invisible.
Take two cases, which are identical, ending in the judge, in both cases, condemning the defendant to death; both cases took place in England. The first case concerns Timothy Evans. In the early 1950s, he was convicted for a murder he did not commit. Police officials described Evans, at the time at the time as “retarded”, if he were of sound mind he would never have found himself in this position. The judge knew this but still decided to send the poor man to his death by hanging. He received a pardon in 1966, and this means nothing to anybody.
In 1952, Derek Bentley, as a teenager had already spent time in prison. He had a certain amount of difficulties and a remarkably low intelligence, possibly even more so than Evans. Bentley, before being convicted for murder, spent a lot of time with the want-to-be gangster, Christopher Craig. On one evening Craig, who was only sixteen, lured Bentley onto a rooftop. Enraged by the imprisonment of his brother, Craig shot a police officer dead, before he pulled the trigger, Bentley shouted: “let him have it”, meaning, give the police officer the gun. In any case Bentley was convicted of the murder, and despite the jury’s recommendation of “mercy”, the judge, picked for his barbarity, sentenced him to death, because Craig was sixteen, three-years younger than Bentley, he was given a life sentence. Craig was released after ten years; Bentley was hanged.
These men and countless others are what Orwell would call “unpeople”. That is they do not really exist, they never will and therefore we need not worry about such things because they are just fragments of a people that bear no significance to the lives of these judges and people like them. Their lives bear the name of a rather unfortunate existence. As our final years of misery unfold, it may well be determined by the judge. Nevertheless, no matter because this is the suffering of others and people do not appear to be concerned about these things. They are only condemned, reproached, lambasted, lampooned, ridiculed, reviled, detested, abhorred, threatened, and despised. It is only the innocent who are spared an inch of our remorse. Oh, well, people say. At least they are given compensation. Soon after that, people forget about this and find other things to speak nonsense about.
We seldom hear the private lives of judges and of the crimes they have committed. However, we can be sure some of the people who commit crimes of various sorts receive a certain amount of protection from the powers that be. Whatever these judges do in their spare time, they are irrational and befuddled. It is not even clear many are even human, but just automated machines; what do they do at home? Do they beat their wives with iron bars? Assault their sleeping children? Commit high-level corruption when nobody is looking? Alternatively, do they take part in lude behaviour, like masturbating in children’s playgrounds? The truth is that we do not know about any of these things but we ought not to be too surprised if judges on a grand scale have committed some of these perversities. They are quite eager to condemn others, but they may be hiding their own depraved crimes.
There is a concerted effort like there is with the all areas of totalitarian power, to humanise judges on television and film but even this is rather difficult to do. It is uncertain whether judges have feelings, emotions, empathy and the like. There is little proof of this. If they did, one could argue they would not be in this lamentable job in the first place. For the history of judges and their actions is hardly anything to be proud about, despite this they seem perfectly content with practising these horrors in the past, and continue in the present, and will continue in the future.
The fact of the matter is that it appears the judge possesses no humanity at all. Neither do they possess human qualities we expect from good and decent people. Psychopaths, it is true, sleep peacefully during the night time and the reasons are entirely evident. Why on earth, people must ask themselves, would such a person become a judge in the first place. I believe this question is unable to be answered adequately. The reason, possibly, is this group of people, have numerous reasons... Some of the reasons are evident: power, control, debauched perversity, and a whole new manner of other things. If God, and life after death did exist, judges would be in the lowest depths of hell. Their screams would replicate their victims in this world.
George Orwell, before becoming a writer, was a police officer; Siegfried Sassoon was a soldier; John Steinbeck was a journalist; Franz Kafka an insurance broker; Anton Chekhov an insurance broker; Herman Melville a cabin boy on a cruise liner and so on. These people are remembered for having some humanity at least, but none of these writers were judges. Even artists have worked in government, Peter Tchaikovsky, for example. However, no judges to speak of. It is possible the judge is incapable of such things, and ever was. They choose not to write, compose, conduct, paint, because they do not have the capacity or humanity to do this, and that is the plain truth.
Instead they plummet themselves into something far darker and rather unpleasant. They have more in common with de Sade’s 120 Days of Sodom, rather than David Copperfield because with the former they are able to revel in licentiousness and debauched suffering. Who is to say the judge does not masturbate while passing sentence? They are never reported so we can only surmise what some of these reprobates get up to. They put their wigs on and become psychopathic lunatics who enjoy seeing suffering, misery and eventual destruction of others. Yet the judge is seldom spoke of in this manner
Emma Goldman, the feminist-anarchist led a somewhat turbulent life. She was unfortunate to be imprisoned on a number of occasions for laughable practices. In one instance, she was addressing a judge in court; or rather, the judge was addressing her. The judge said, if you do not like this country referring to the United States-why not leave? She responded by saying because she is an anarchist it would make little difference where she lived. In any case, the judge, unconcerned with her woes, decided to send her to prison for a certain amount of time. Some things, so it appears, never seem to change.
Every now and again, there is a terrible war of sorts against a particular group of people. There have been wars against communists, Marxists, the ‘left’. Jews, blacks and so on. Another vicious was fought against anarchists of every kind and this was sadistically executed in Emma Goldman’s lifetime. In 1901 William McKinley, the U.S President at the time, was assassinated by Leon Czolgosz, a Polish immigrant. The young man, responsible for the murder, was in turn executed but only fifteen years prior to this, another major event occurred concerning anarchists: the Haymarket massacre. Four anarchists were hanged but it was clear they had done nothing wrong and this was well known, certainly by the judge sentencing them. The judge who condemned them to death said quite bluntly that it is not because you are criminals you are being executed but because you are anarchists. In addition, their lives came to an end.
In 1886, 1901, 1950, 2005 or whatever year we choose to select the morality of the judge never changes. There were times in so-called democratic states that police officers beat people to death quite habitually, that is hardly the case anymore; the prison officer beat and tortured the prisoner, in many societies that is now unheard of; soldiers today, are far less savage than they have been in the past. Unlike the rest of these groups, the judge is able to go beyond physical violence and torture. The judge is condemning these people to perpetual persecution and nightmares.
The judge, in many respects, resembles the tyrannical monarch in many ways. They do so on at least five points (1). They are seldom seen in public; (2). They dress in the most absurd and asinine uniform; (3). They care only for the perversities and riches and subject everybody else to a sort of misery; (4). Any criticism if these judges paint you as a pariah; (5). Tyrannise, subject and terrorise people until they no longer become people any more, they are only people we find in a Bulgakov novel, a short story by Gogol or a play by Moliere.
It would be a queer thing to read a dialogue of Plato’s with a conversation taking place not between philosophers and sophists but with judges. What would they say? What views would they air? The fact of the matter is that such questions will not be known, because everything concerning judges is furtive; we must not know how they live their lives; what views they have; their beliefs, if they have any, and so on. That is a twisted piece of irony that ought to concern us all. The infantile celebrity cultures are broadcast to us and learn of their puerile existence and are told rather stupid things that ought to interest nobody. Quite amazingly, such things are unheard of with the judge, because, after all, they only punish the miserable further, and people seem to applaud this.
The attitude of the public towards the political class is rather interesting. Crowds are seen in the streets protesting against police corruption, as they brutally take part in shooting dead people from time-to-time; others rage their anger against individual members of the social services, demanding their resignations; there is even scrutiny with private power; members of parliament seldom escape diatribes, and at times, inevitably, their careers are thrown in the garbage bin of history; journalists and newspaper editors have had a great amount of vitriol directed at them. Nevertheless, when it comes to judges of all kinds there is nothing.
The media, the capitalist press often report misinformation or at times, no information and help judges get away at giving monstrous sentences. They have given, in the U.K and U.S for example, indefinite sentences for almost anything, or nothing as the case might be. In a court case, at trial, it is often a clandestine affair. Is there some hidden law that stipulates that judges are unable to be criticised? This, to my knowledge, has never been adequately elucidated.
Of course it is not only through sentencing and criminal cases which judges preside over, they make very important decisions regarding moral and ethical issues. However, it is clear, like politicians, these judges have never been chosen at the ballot box, and for that, their power is tyrannical.
15th-19th May, 2013
This is the final essay 'on crime', for the other six essays, check my previous posts.