I must be mellowing. Or something. Because listening, close to tears, to today’s Jeremy Vine show I found myself nodding in total agreement with Claire Phillipson, director of Wearside Women in Need.
She was talking about the horrific beyond words violence, viciousness inflicted by Shane Jenkin on his partner, Tina Nash. That’s the case which, if you have been listening to any news today, you cannot be unaware of: the case where he, for reasons still to be explained, first throttled Tina, then gouged her eyes out.
It really is beyond words. Both halves.
First, there is the victim of this outrage. Tina, interviewed on the BBC, quoted in the press, talks about how she has been left feeling “buried alive, claustrophobic and not in control of my life”. She mourns the fact she will never again see her children: reveals how she now prefers sleeping to waking because in her dreams she still has sight. One feels, were it not for her children, she would by now have taken her own life.
So much is truly heart-breaking.
Then there is Jenkin himself. Not some casual drunken outburst. Not a one-off. But a twelve hour sustained attack during which he broke his partner’s jaw and nose: knocked her unconscious, possibly in order more easily to carry out the eye gouging.
Ms Phillipson’s analysis, which I won’t fault, is how the public needs to wake up to the reality of domestic violence: that it is not about a “loss of control”, but rather it is about the deliberate taking of control through violence. More: it is situated within a culture that pretty much “grooms” women to accept and excuse this sort of behaviour.
Enough on the analysis. What to do with the perpetrator? Did I say “mellowing”? Perhaps I should have said “hardening”.
I am always queasy about snap judgments on violent incident. A proportion – a high proportion of violence – is unpremeditated, spur of the moment stuff, often catalysed by alcohol. But whether it is a trend in the crime itself, or the fact that the press are now more prepared to report the true vileness of what happens, there is another sort of assault that has been featuring recently, particularly against women.
These are assaults like this one, designed deliberately to mar, to ruin for life. The acid-throwings, which have been common for a while on the Indian sub-continent – but are now increasingly taking place in the UK. I think I’d also add in sustained (sexual) abuse.
What all of these crimes have in common is that they are the crimes of the selfish and the egocentric: for the most part, little boys who have never grown beyond the spiteful idea that if THEY can’t have something, no-one else shall either. So they take and, because in their spitefulness they are cunning, they take whatever is most precious to their victims.
Not life, because that would be too easy. But sight, looks, health. Whatever hurts the most.
And I do not think such crimes should be punished as though they are JUST violence. For just as some murders are little more than accident – an unlucky assault – deserving of a lesser sentence, so perpetrators who premeditatedly set out to take away all that someone holds dear in their lives should be punished to the full measure of the law.
Thankfully, in the case of grievous bodily harm with intent, life imprisonment is a possible outcome. I will be watching the courts in the next few weeks to see what does transpire.