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Sunday, 26 June 2011

Blood Money. Not such a bad idea?

An Indonesian maid is awaiting execution in Saudi Arabia. She killed her employer when he tried to rape her. She will have her head cut off with a sword.

It may be that the Indonesian government will be able to save her by paying blood money to the dead man's family. We are talking six figures. Meanwhile, the Indonesian government is trying to stop its nationals travelling to Saudi Arabia to work. There have been too many similar cases. Saudi Arabia is not a nice place for a migrant worker.

In this case, if blood money - and only blood money - will save this woman's life, then it seems right that it should be paid over.In civilised countries, she would not be facing the death penalty. Probably she would not have been charged with any offence.

But what about the principle of blood money? Would it work in Europe?

Suppose a drunken driver collides with a husband on his bike and he is killed. The driver faces a few years in prison and, of course, a driving ban. Should he be able to buy his way out of the prison sentence? The cyclist's widow might find six figures rather more attractive than the knowledge that her husband's killer is kicking his heels in prison for six years, especially if her husband was the breadwinner and she has young children.

There would be cases where no one would want to see a blood money settlement: serial killers need to go to prison for public protection. But killers who are unlikely to repeat their offence don't.

Burglary would be a very good arena to try out the principle. Someone steals £10,000 worth of jewellery from me, gets nicked and gets sentenced to six months. As an alternative, they hand back the jewellery and £10,000 blood money.

I can't really see anything wrong with this, not least because it saves tax payer money on prison space. It is often distressing to be a victim of crime and distressing again to go to court and give evidence. The sentences handed down often seem light in relation to the distress the crime has caused. Some decent compensation might well feel better to a victim of crime.


Added 24 July 2018: The argument of this Blog is developed in the chapter "Blood Money" in my hardback book Silence Is So Accurate (degree zero 2017), freely available from Amazon, Waterstones and other booksellers

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