I refer to Richard Oerton’s interesting and thoughtful article on crime and punishment. In arguing against retributive punishment, he only partially deals with one very significant factor. That is, it is an important function of the law to ensure that it maintains a monopoly on punishment.

To do so, it must have the confidence of society. If punishment is limited to deterrence, a victim, or victim’s family, may consider that justice has not been done in the individual case. Whether that view is ‘right’ is irrelevant (and who is so placed as to be entitled to make such a moral determination for others anyway?).  

The practical consequence is that those affected by criminal acts may well conclude that if society does not deliver justice as they see it, their only recourse is to take the law into their own hands. In other words, taking retribution out of the criminal system fosters vigilantism. In blunt terms, a man whose wife or daughter has been raped is unlikely to accept the explanation that that is just the way the rapist is made, and leave it at that.

Dr Julian Critchlow, Tregaron, Ceredigion