Tuesday 17 January 2012

Britain is still a country which sends very old men to prison at the end of their days to punish them for their crimes

This was Malcolm Beardon who is 79 and his wife Margaret who was 78. They were childhood sweethearts who were married for 58 years ago and were ‘devoted and loving.’

This is Malcolm today. He has just been sentenced to one year in prison for the of manslaughter of Margaret, whose dementia had become so severe that she no longer knew who he was.

What we learn is that Malcolm :

* cared for his wife on his own at their for more than ten years "without", as his family said, "ever complaining", insisting that he would look after her "in sickness and in health".

* found that, in the months before her death, Margaret became increasingly difficult to care for and he snapped when she turned on him when she accused him of stealing from her and strangled her, then phoned his daughter and told her: "I have killed your mother. I am so sorry. She was going on and on."

* at his trial, denied murdering his wife but admitted 'manslaughter due to loss of control' and witnessed his son beg the judge to free him, telling him: "I have lost my mother. I don’t want to lose my father too."

* listened to the Judge, admit he faced an "agonising sentencing exercise", that Malcolm was a man of "impeccable character" and the crime would "haunt him to the end of his days" and to have a partner affected by dementia was "both a heartrending spectacle and significant challenge".

* heard the the Judge add that it was not a "mercy killing or an assisted suicide" and that the Court must "recognise the principle of the sanctity of human life" and sentenced Malcolm to prison for 12 months.

Despite the fact that Malcolm is expected to serve six months of his sentence, the following questions are worth asking :
What kind of country is it that sends very old men to prison in these circumstances ? Is the point of the sentence :

- to make Malcolm an example to others ?
_ to make Malcolm a better man ?
_ to make Malcolm suffer for his crime ?

Malcolm's son John said:
"I cannot see any benefit to society in locking my Dad up. He is the most placid man imaginable. He was completely devoted to my mother. He cared for her for ten years and is devastated by what happened. I have no idea how he will manage in prison. He is nearly 80. Obviously we are hugely worried about how he will cope."

Speaking of his Mother he said that :
"Her whole personality changed. She thought my Dad was just some stranger looking after her. She had no idea who he was. It was absolutely heartbreaking. It must have been hellish for him, but he was very old-fashioned and thought it was his duty to look after her. He insisted he could manage."

Malcolm's defence lawyer said that the case was "a tragedy for all concerned. Mr Beardon has killed his best friend, his wife of 58 years at the home they shared for 50 years. Everybody says he was a genuinely loving husband who has lost his lifetime companion."

Malcolm has joined the 8,000 old men in Britain's prison population of 88,000.

What kind of cruel, compassionless country has Britain become, which locks old men in prison at the end of their days ?


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