Saturday, 29 August 2009

That's mitigation?

[trigger warning - domestic violence]

From BBC News, a man has been given a 350-day suspended sentence for poisoning his ex-wife with mercury. The sentence is rather light for the crime (even if he did plead guilty, was of previous good character, etc.)

The judge's decision wasn't what most got to me about the story. It actually gets worse...

Paul Lewis, for the defendant, said in mitigation that Dowling had "only intended to annoy his wife so she would feel the need for him to care for her and so resurrect their relationship".

Mr Lewis suggested that because Mrs Dowling was still able to work as a cleaner, she had overplayed her symptoms.

So, the defence is basically saying: "in mitigation, my client is dangerously manipulative and completely lacking in empathy, and he was stopped before the poisoning reached fatal levels.". That's mitigation? That's the argument intended to reduce sentencing?

And from the judge, while sentencing:

"What is relevant is that you are not a medical expert and it follows from that that it was more by good luck than anything else that your wife did not suffer serious harm," said [Judge Robert Brown]

So... it's okay to poison your ex-wife as long as you read up on the options for poison in advance and ensure you pick one that will not have too many long-term side effects despite repeated application.

I wish this refusal to take domestic violence seriously was atypical.