While some might agree with Jeremy Bentham’s utilitarianism, the philosophy behind which is that it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong, far fewer would agree with his words that “all punishment is mischief; all punishment in itself is evil.” Especially when those being punished had left their victim with injuries so severe that he needed facial reconstruction.
Paul Kohler, head of law at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, was held down on the floor during a five-minute attack at his home in Wimbledon on 11th August 2014 by four Polish men all under the influence of narcotics and alcohol. One of the men sat on him and repeatedly punched him in the face while another kicked him in the head. Kohler suffered a fractured eye socket, a fractured left jawbone, a broken nose and bruising that left him “utterly unrecognisable”. Judge Susan Tapping said it was not clear whether the culprits had been trying to carry out a burglary or whether they had arrived at the wrong address with the intention of collecting a debt – as if that makes any difference. Kohler’s daughter, who had been present at the family house in Wimbledon at the time of the raid, together with her boyfriend, had managed to call the police.
Last week, the men involved were convicted. Mariusz Tomaszewski, 32, and Pawel Honc, 24, were sentenced to 19 years imprisonment for grievous bodily harm with intent and aggravated burglary while Oskar Pawlowicz, 30, and Dawid Tychon, 29, were each sentenced to 13 years. All four men had criminal records in Poland, with 32 convictions between them.
Meanwhile, an Irish court was hearing how a Polish moneylender allegedly tried to call in a loan from a fellow Pole at gunpoint. Mirosław Kluczak, currently residing in Letterkenny, County Donegal, denied threatening to kill a client on 4 April 2014. A former Polish army officer Leszek Majewski claimed that Kluczak stormed into his house after he told the latter he was unable to repay a loan of GBP 70 and put a gun against his head threatening to kill him.
Apart from the trauma caused to those involved, these cases are, of course, grist to the mill of those, both in the UK and elsewhere, who wish to see the right of free movement within the EU curbed. For example, UKIP has not been slow to point to Ministry of Justice figures showing that in September last year there were 2,963 prisoners from 16 Eastern European countries of which over two thirds were from just four countries – Poland, Lithuania, Romania and Albania – and 901 (now 905) from Poland. This is costing the UK taxpayer GBP 110 million a year and there is increasing frustration that at nine out of 28 of EU members have failed to sign agreements with the UK to take their criminals back, a problem touched upon here in The Extradition.
Be that as it may, with growing discontent with the EU across Europe, if citizens face the double jeopardy of not being able to exclude undesirables at the outset and then of having to pick up the bill for the consequences of their crimes later on, folk will be less inclined to resist the siren voices (and not only in the UK, but also France) of those advocating an end to free movement of people or even an end to the EU itself. In the case of the UK, much of the blame must go to successive governments which have simply failed to take appropriate action to police the borders and to deal firmly with wrongdoers, wherever they might be from, and putting the human “rights” of the criminal above those of the victim and society in general.
In vain do the politicians seek to extol the virtues of the EU as a community transcending national differences and boundaries, if individual citizens increasingly associate it (depending on national viewpoint) with the gravy train in Brussels, the subsidy of profligate members, austerity and unemployment, a loss of identity, control, and security. After all, as Bentham himself reminds us: “it is vain to talk of the interest of the community, without understanding what is the interest of the individual.”