It is very intriguing to think of crime and punishment. While crime can be better understood based on the generally applied moral and ethical standards, the punishment leaves many questions unanswered. The title from the immortal work of Fyodor Dostoevsky was borrowed on seeing an article that appeared in the Guardian daily of today.
Much has been written on the Great Train Robbery of 1963 and a famous film was made on the incident. It was a £2.6 million train robbery committed by a 15 member gang in England. The post office train carrying much cash was driven to another track and loads of cash was transported to waiting cars. Most of the stolen money was never recovered even though thirteen of the gang were arrested, imprisoned and sentenced for long jail terms.
Ronnie Biggs, one of the gang members got the sentence of 30 years in prison but escaped through a jail break after 15 months in the jail. He was at large for the next eight years, escaping with large amounts of money, and went to France, Australia and Brazil and had undergone plastic surgery. In 2001 Biggs, 71, unable to meet mounting medical costs in Brazil after three strokes, voluntarily returned to England and promptly went to jail.
Now, a parole board meeting in July will decide if, Biggs, aged 80, suffering from various ailments can be released from Norwich jail after nine and a half years in custody in the UK and more than 35 years on the run.
"All my father can do at the moment is sit down and watch television," his son said. "I think the public will be appalled to see what state my father is in once he gets released from prison. Perhaps the government was not hoping that he would last this long, but he has, and now that he has done his time they have to let him out.”
Many of Biggs's gang are already dead: Charlie Wilson was murdered, Buster Edwards killed himself and others died of natural causes.
Biggs had appealed the authorities for release before he dies and said: "I am an old man and often wonder if I truly deserve the extent of my punishment. I have accepted it and only want freedom to die with my family and not in jail."
Most likely, he will be released in July. Who knows if the punishment was adequate or if justice has been done? What is important is that a life had been wasted; a life full of fear, anxieties, uncertainties and hard ships. Youngsters going into wanton indulgence should think if money is to be placed in importance above all values.
This report also throws another question at our justice system. Do we want the punishment for a single robbery to be more severe and longer than what the system often gives to rapists, murderers committing multiple murders, paedophiles who murder and to other habitual criminals who cannot be tolerated by any civil society? How do we look at political corruption going unchecked and the “daylight robbers” mixing freely in our midst? I am perplexed, to say the least.
Dubai, 18th February 2009