Essentially, it is a necessity defense
. Some crimes may be justified if they can prevent a greater harm. The bar for the defense is fairly high in most jurisdictions--I don't know if it really ought to have succeeded here (being "hungry" would probably not be enough--if you were literally dying of malnutrition, it probably would be).
Yeah, the fact that he bought some food, while concealing other food in his clothes, and so on...I didn't bother to bring up necessity because it seemed to fall well short of the bar. If someone's grabs something off the shelf to stop someone from dying in an accident, cool.
I can't think of a way to adjudicate this as not worthy of punishment that doesn't also apply to a number of similar cases.
Tyndmyr wrote:Okay, but WHY do you forgive crimes?
That depends on how you feel about people, and about society, and about the idea of "there but for the grace of God..."
Well, I'm an atheist, so I'm not putting a lot of stock in the "grace of God".
I do, however, believe in causality. If you have a homeless problem, well, there's probably reasons for that. Allowing supermarket theft is unlikely to fix those reasons, and will create more problems.
But the bottom line is you forgive certain crimes, in certain cases, because you are not a machine. Because there is a certain humanity in being part of society.
If doing the wrong thing because of a compulsion to prove my "humanity" is what makes one human, then I'll strive to be a machine, thanks.
Tyndmyr wrote:But this is precisely what laws against petty theft are for.
No, it's not.
Petty theft is, by definition, fairly small. Most shoplifters aren't exactly stupidly rich. Sure, a millionare with a shoplifting habit will definitely make the papers, but that's because it's an unusual event, not a person walking out of the shop with a new pair of jeans or something. Most criminal rich people deal in other crimes. Graft or fraud of some impressive quantity. Someone without a lot of money stealing something because they need it is a very normal case of petty theft.
Tyndmyr wrote:Punishment isn't about vengeance.
It is if it's meted out this way. Forgiving this guy makes society work
. Society is not based on authoritarian and mechanical obedience. It's based on the compassion and empathy individuals have for each other, and laws are but a crude attempt to help this to scale beyond the point where people know each other. Jailing him for six months and fining him many times more than his net worth destroys society
I did not support punishment here on the grounds of vengeance, so, no, that's not a valid assumption.
Other punishment models exist as well. You don't have to choose between "ALL THE VENEGANCE" and not punishing at all. This gets directly back into the police violence thing, too. You need a nice, smooth graduation of punishments that are appropriate to the crime. Sometimes that may be a fine. Sometimes that may be community service.
And on a systemic level, if you're seeing certain problems crop up a lot, preventative action may be required.
Now, we have a crime committed. It was due to a problem. Irrespective of the judicial outcome, we still want to solve the problem.
If you don't say, then we can't tell whether the solution actually solves that problem.
If you do say, then you can point to a solution. But that solution will likely make the other (unacknowledged) problems worse.
Not intimately familiar with that country's issues, and, no doubt there are others more qualified than me to speak on them. However, I'm confident that we have a few issues here in the US that we could work on without making other problems worse.
We're not on some pareto optimum of society, where every improvement has to come at an equal loss elsewhere. Or even a loss elsewhere. There are some things that we can fix that have no significant tradeoff whatsoever. You're basically arguing that we should avoid fixing problems because there might be some unknown other effect.
I'm arguing for doing the math, and figuring out effects first, and cheerfully changing things. In a systemic fashion, not in some "well, fuck it, this guy gets to shoplift" fashion.
I'm aware that shoplifting is "real crime", and I'm aware of the thin margins of supermarkets. But not all criminal actions are equal.
Literally nobody has said that they are, or that they should be.
The justice system didn't "not respond at all". It responded in the manner that emphatically says "IT"S NOT TRUE that 'nobody cares'"
If the thing the justice system responds with is anything other than "justice", then it's wrong. Both when it refuses to uphold valid, necessary law, and when it goes beyond it.