Blogs and newspaper comments pages are today dominated with an outpouring of outrage, sadness, despair and sympathy following the death of a young man, Jimmy Mizen. 16 year old Jimmy was attacked and brutally killed by an as yet unidentified assailant. The attacker had been threatening the staff of a baker's shop and Jimmy stepped in to defend them. For his bravery he was rewarded with a slash across his throat with a piece of glass that left him dying in the arms of his brother. For many people this death, if none before have done so, epitomises what is wrong with law and order today. Described as a gentle giant, altar boy Jimmy was arguably an example of what is best in our younger generation and a stood as a stark contrast to the so-often reported violent youth culture that shames British streets.
There are many that blame central government for putting us in a position where crimes of this sort can occur. Many feel that laws are too soft, that the police are under-funded and burdened with bureaucracy, that offenders have no fear of retribution. These are certainly issues that government should address and take responsibility for.
My previous post about respect draws on some of the reasons why some of our youth seemingly have no regard for authority, and that this is so often a product of poor parenting. It remains to be seen whether the murderer in this case will fit this pattern, but it will surprise no-one if this background accurately describes that of the attacker when - it is most fervently hoped - he is brought to justice.
There is a recurring theme in the public comments made about this story, and it is that policing should be stepped up, parents should be made culpable for their offspring's crimes and punishment should be harsher for the offender. Many advocate - demand even - the return of capital punishment. And while I cannot, even in this despicable case, readily agree with this last sentiment I do follow the thinking and cannot deny that justice would sometimes best be served by the harshest sentence possible. Dead murderers do not re-offend.
My condolences go out to the Mizen family. Jimmy's mother has said that she has only sadness and not anger for his killer. I hope that when he is caught the judge and jury can find just a little anger in themselves and punish him with the full weight of the law.
And I hope our politicians, whom I will not blame personally for this sad case, will nevertheless open their ears to the wishes of a public who have seen one death too many among our youth; to a public that wants swift and decisive change in the ways that our streets are policed and our law courts hand down sentencing for violent crime. It is change that the populace demands and they would do well to respect that wish.
Rest in peace Jimmy.