Should we be taking the law into our own hands?

The recent lynching of a suspected rapist in India has been making the headlines this month and consequently sparked off a huge debate questioning wether or not we, the general public should be taking the law into our own hands. published an article explaining that the suspect, Syed Sharif Khan, was stripped naked, beaten and dragged through Nagaland state’s main city, before he was hung by his neck in front of thousands of people. It is thought that initially he was targeted by a small group of men who, after going to the prison where he was being held, were denied access to his cell by police. However, hours later a crown of several thousand people had gathered outside of the prison, demanding to see the alleged rapist, prompting police to hand him over to the public for torture.

To most of us this may seem like an extreme case of the public joining together and overthrowing the law and is most likely something we wouldn’t expect to happen here in the UK, where the legal system is a profound and respected part of our society. However, more and more cases are rapidly emerging of UK citizens doing just that albeit in a less extreme manner. 

Ever heard of the self-named group ‘dark justice’? I hadn’t either until the explained how they recently persuaded a known peadophile to travel from Wiltshire to Newcastle to meet them, after the group managed to convince him they were a 14 year old school girl. When the known peadophile arrived in Newcastle, he was immediately confronted by the group who had gathered up quite the collection of evidence and handed it over to the police, resulting in his swift arrest, trial and prison sentence.

Explaining their decision to form the group, they told the daily mail:

‘We want to prevent this sort of thing from happening, we don’t consider ourselves as vigilantes but ‘concerned citizens of society.’

Now, whilst it is both brave and admirable that groups such as these are single-handedly striving to protect vulnerable citizens across the UK, they are also placing themselves and others at risk. Not to mention the fact that they are overriding the legal system and inadvertently encouraging like-minded people to do the same.

Currently there may only be a small minority of the UK who are choosing to act on behalf of the law and the outcome seems to be, so far, beneficial to society. However, as a nation we all seem to have a habit of ‘following the trend’ and ‘jumping on the bandwagon’ if we deem it as a good enough cause. What may have started off as a small collection of people seeking to protect and strengthen society can quickly escalate into a state of anarchy. If people chose to disregard the law according to their own beliefs and desires then what’s to stop us all from regularly forming thousand-strong mobs to publicly shame criminals, some of who have not yet been convicted?

Although I cannot even begin to imagine the pain and anger that the family and friends of victims must go through, taking it upon ourselves to seek out revenge or justice is simply not part of the modern, civil society we currently live in, nor is it humane. The law is in place for specific reasons: to protect us, regulate us, and provide us with our human rights. Yes, it may sometimes feel oppressive but it also stops us from stabbing each other over the last hot cross bun at Tesco’s. 

Instead of sinking down to the same level as the criminal we should be taking a more educated approach to the problem by putting pressure on the government to hand out harsher and longer prison sentences. We need to question why our taxes are being spent on luxurious prisons with 5* meals and a TV in every cell and we need to fight for this to be reduced- using only our voices. We need to see some kind of rehabilitation programme where the criminals can give back to the community from which they have taken something so precious and it needs to be an on-going process.

We have progressed a lot since the wild west gun-toting days and I for one would like to keep it that way, so in the interest of real justice, our laws must be preserved and adhered to.


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