Killing with kindness through a 'second chance'
Published in: Daily Mail
Might it be possible to kill someone with kindness? The fate of Eva Rausing suggests that this may indeed be so.
The wife of the Tetra-Pak heir Hans Kristian Rausing was found dead last week at her Belgravia mansion, where it is suspected her body may have lain for some considerable time.
The precise cause of her death is as yet unknown. What is known, however, is that both she and her husband were addicted over many years to hard drugs.
Though the couple were billionaires, they were found to be living in paranoid squalor as a result of their addiction. Friends said that they had been taking huge amounts of heroin, cocaine and morphine.
The really shocking thing about all this was that the Rausings were once an established part of the society scene. They were apparently close friends of the Prince of Wales, who personally made Eva Rausing a trustee of one of his charities, the Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment.
Four years ago, she was caught taking heroin and crack cocaine into the U.S. Embassy. A subsequent search of the couple’s home turned up thousands of pounds’ worth of pure cocaine, as well as more crack and heroin.
Yet astonishingly, all charges against them were dropped and they were let off instead with a conditional caution.
Subsequently, Prince Charles publicly supported Mrs Rausing, refusing to sack her from the board of his foundation. His charities, he said, offered a second chance to young people, many of whom had a drug problem, so how could this not be offered to Mrs Rausing, too?
It’s hard to think of a better demonstration of the adage that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Of course, loyalty to one’s friends when they are in trouble is commendable. But it is essential for the kind of vulnerable and disadvantaged young people who are helped by the Prince’s charities that they should receive the unequivocal message that taking drugs is not without consequences — but entails social disapproval and sanctions, especially if the drug offender is stinking rich.
This was not so much a second chance — after all, the Rausings had previously been in rehab and had apparently lived for some time free of drugs — as deliberately turning a blind eye to their history in the hope that the problem would just go away.
What they desperately needed was to have their behaviour challenged and stopped. Instead, they continued to be accepted in the smartest circles and given public endorsement.
After their arrest, no one can have been in any doubt they were still using drugs. Yet even those friends who knew about their increasingly alarming behaviour failed to get anyone to act.
Moreover, the charities to which they were such generous donors continued to receive their money, doubtless thus reinforcing the Rausings’ belief that their philanthropy erased the stain of their addiction, and cementing them ever more firmly into the illusion that their habit was consequence-free.
Worse still was the decision not to prosecute them for possession of so much hard drugs. Many concluded at the time that while such offences would have landed lesser mortals with a jail term, the Rausings had been let off because they were so rich and well-connected.
Yet it is not just the Rausings whose intolerable behaviour is treated so tolerantly by the criminal justice system. There are countless examples of people being let off with a caution or given community sentences instead of being sent to jail, mainly because of the belief that criminals are the victims of circumstances.
Meaningful punishment is therefore too harsh, and prison does more harm than good.
The result is the prisons are overflowing with more and more serious offenders whose criminal career has escalated as a result of soft treatment by the courts.
A good example recently was the so-called ‘safari boy’, who, as a 14-year-old tearaway, was sent on a £7,000 trip to Africa in the ludicrous belief that seeing people so much worse off than he was would shock him on to the straight and narrow.
Weeks after his return, he was in court for 34 offences ranging from burglary to stealing a car — for which he was merely given a supervision order.
Last week, he made his 32nd court appearance, for mugging an elderly woman, and was sentenced to an 18-month jail term; given the time he had already spent on remand, he was likely to spend a risible amount more behind bars.
This soft-headed approach is echoed by the courts time and again, usually in accordance with equally soft-headed laws passed by Parliament.
Statistics show that in recent years the number of rapists released from prison without reaching the halfway point in their sentence has increased sharply.
Now, official figures have shown that in the past three years, more than 400 sex attackers who have been set free long before completing their sentences have gone on to commit rape. Other statistics show that some paedophiles with multiple convictions have been set free with community sentences or cautions.
Part of the reason is the desperation to reduce prison overcrowding. But for years, supervision in the community by the probation service has been undermined by a lax approach.
Reports repeatedly show that too many criminals supposedly being monitored by the authorities nevertheless end up being charged with hundreds of offences — including rape, kidnap and murder.
And some judges seem to go out of their way not to lock criminals up. A number of young looters prosecuted after last year’s riots walked free from court.
Last May, Judge Carol Hagen said it was ‘not in the interests of justice’ to lock up a woman who had committed 100 offences and was serving a suspended sentence when she appeared back in the dock for shoplifting — apparently taking pity on her because she had pleaded for a ‘last chance to get off drugs’.
Last January, three thugs attacked a man in a drunken rampage and left him for dead — yet were awarded only suspended sentences, apparently because the judge was persuaded that it was not they who were responsible for this crime but the alcohol they had drunk.
The root cause of all this nonsense is our culture of sentimentality, which treats criminals as victims and thus betrays the people who really are their victims.
Robbing criminals of moral responsibility and not forcing them to face up to the consequences of their own behaviour effectively prevents them from being able to stop that behaviour.
Eva Rausing’s death has been widely described as ‘tragic’. For sure, the disintegration and death of anyone is a terrible thing — but ‘tragic’ suggests a victim of circumstance. The Rausings were not.
Of course, once addiction set in, they then lost their capacity to fight it. But it had been their decision to start taking drugs in the first place.
Treating such people as tragic victims is part of the same culture of sentimentality which flinches from jail sentences because these are not ‘compassionate’.
But the essence of such sentimentality is the desire to avoid making hard choices. And that is not compassionate, but is a synonym for neglect.
People who want criminals punished and locked up, and drug offenders forced to receive treatment, are accused of lacking compassion. But it is that false ‘compassion’ which led to the death of Eva Rausing.
If our criminal justice system was guided by the hard-nosed compassion of tough love, rather than sentimentality, many would be spared the misery of becoming victims of crime — and Eva Rausing might have still been alive today.