Justice isn’t just about blame but also about prevention and collective responsibility

By Ghui

The senseless and brutal killing of a 4-year-old girl in Taipei shocked and appalled many across the world.

As Taiwan grieved and amidst some vigilante justice, the mother of the young victim has spoken out against any retributive violence with much grace and compassion

I cannot begin to imagine the pain she must be going through and yet to have the strength and fortitude to acknowledge that hate and vengeance does not provide any long-term solutions has deeply humbled me. (read Ms Claire Wang’s letter)

She had the foresight despite her trauma to recognise that the killer was someone with severe mental problems and that this was not a problem that could be solved by simply passing a law. She further opined that the problem needed to be addressed at its root, “from the perspective of family and education” to prevent such a tragedy from occurring again.

The perpetrator of this heinous crime allegedly suffers from severe mental problems which have not been adequately treated or monitored. Perhaps, much more can be done to lift the stigma around mental conditions so that afflicted individuals and their loved ones will be more open to seek treatment and help. This will go a long way to prevent similar tragedies from happening again.

While it is easy to simply punish the perpetrator and close the case, there are clearer deeper issues at play and society as a whole has to be invested in order to achieve a more permanent solution.

While this unfortunate incident occurred in another country, there are many lessons that we can learn from it.

Singapore has always been known for efficient justice and has a reputation for preventing backlog. While this has its pros, there is danger that in our rush to close the case, we forget that simply closing the case isn’t going to make the problem go away. Have we fallen into the trap of using a one size fits all approach for everything? Are we ignoring the fact that for many crimes or alleged crimes, there are much deeper societal issues at play?

It is easy to get caught up with emotions and lash out against a perpetrator, sometimes leading to results that do not serve the purposes of justice. Take the Benjamin Lim tragedy as an example. The police were so keen to catch the offender that they threw common sense out of the window and forgot that it was a minor that they were dealing with.

While there is no doubt with regards to the identity of the killer in the Taiwan decapitation, the family of the victim had the erudition to see the bigger picture. This amazing clarity and vision should be a lesson to society as a whole.

Society at large has to take collective responsibility at keeping our streets safe. Justice isn’t just about finding someone to blame so as to close the case. There are far bigger implications such as whether what we are doing is sufficient to prevent future occurrences?

For Ms Wang’s precious angel not to have died in vain, we must use this tragedy as a call to self-examination.

Justice isn’t just about finding someone to blame, lock up and/or execute. It is also about prevention and collective responsibility. Often, it is also an exercise in common sense.

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