Justice and Mercy

I am very glad that I am not a judge. I would, I confess, enjoy the income and status, but there are far too many aspects of the job that disqualify me absolutely.

For one thing, how do judges keep awake during those long and tedious explanations of fraud or money-laundering cases? On the
other hand, how can they sit there for weeks  or months on end listening to legal  arguments when the case is so obvious that a ten-year-old could pronounce guilt?

Worst of all, however, must be the whole matter of sentencing. The accused stands there before you, found guilty by his peers, and now, after
a couple of days to think about it, you alone have to decide what the punishment shall be.

Jesus said, “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure  you give will be the measure you get’.

There’s the problem, in a nutshell. Indeed, his next words make it even worse: ‘Why do you see the speck in your neighbour’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own?’

I have never actually murdered anybody, but I’ve lost my temper plenty of times. I’ve never robbed a bank, but – hand on heart – has every single statement I have made in a tax return been the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? By the standards of Jesus, a judge needs to do better than that.

I would enjoy sending the revolting men in Oxford who abused vulnerable young girls to jail for a very long time, but what would I have done with the maths teacher who stupidly allowed himself to fall in love with one of his pupils and then run off to France with her?

I don’t think I would have sent him to prison for five and a half years. I would have looked at him in the dock, seen a man whose career as a teacher was finished forever, and (I suspect) given him a suspended sentence and warned him as to his future conduct. At least that would have
saved the nation something like a hundred thousand pounds.

And it is exactly what a judge recently did with a woman teacher who had an affair with a 16 year old boy pupil. But perhaps – see the problem? – this would not sufficiently deter other teachers from similar disastrous relationships with their students.

So I do not want to be a judge. But at the same time I admire those who feel able to take on that fearful responsibility. We often pray in church for those who ‘administer the law’, that they may ‘uphold justice, honesty and truth’. All of us who are glad someone else is doing it ought to utter that prayer with profound sincerity.

David Winter

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With many peaceful blessings

Geoffrey

 

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