JUSTICE ....CAN IT EVER BE ACHIEVED ?
( Article by Professor Hu Chi Ku Chi )
As with any abstract concept definitions are numerous and varied. Generally terms of reference are needed , but the words used in any such terms are themselves open to alternative interpretations and differences in meaning.
In all aspects of life when wrongs have been committed corrective and/or retributive justice is called for, demanding both reparation and punishment proportionate to the damage inflicted. Clearly , a fixed penalty approach ( as in zero tolerance policies ) can never fulfil the requirements of justice, since one needs to take into account all the background circumstances, as well as the intentions and motives of the accused. If identical scenarios rarely exist then why have identical penalties and outcomes. Each case has to be judged on its merits no matter how time consuming that might be. For instance , unlawful killing of a person should never give rise to a murder charge , when the accused was only acting in self-defence.
When punitive justice is handed out the differences in opinion as to its appropriateness depends of course from whose perspective is involved. Society's as a whole ? The victim's ? The offender's ? Whose views should take priority , and can these views ever be reconciled ?
As Gibran once pointed out we are jointly guilty of another's person's crime in that we are all members of a society that helped determine and shape the accused personality and behaviour. A heartless society breeds heartless people. So as a consequence society is responsible for the crimes committed by bitter, poisoned and desperate victims of that society. Therefore the actual victim of a robbery say, who is also a member of that society , must take on board some responsibility for his own misfortune and pain.
For me justice requires the equal treatment of equals , and campaigns for justice should be campaigns for equality for previously disadvantaged groups. Since all individuals are not relevantly equal, attempts must be made to discriminate one group from another , so that compassionate justice can prevail. However, within that group the only distinctions which can take place must be based on the particular circumstances of the case....but not on who that person happens to be.
Not so long ago a former long serving member was permanently excluded from the club for making joking remarks about the application process. But this was not justice when one considers the temporary ban handed out to a member who committed a serious assault on another. The reality appears to be that when personal prejudice and bias enter the room , justice simply flies out the window.