Worthy of Prosecution?

I have been thinking about cases which have been tried recently where the crimes were committed (or alleged to have been committed) many years ago. Some crimes of course are of a nature that whenever they were committed they are regarded as crimes, but fashions in prosecuting crimes change and fashions in the definition of crimes change. What was once thought normal and accepted behaviour by one generation is sometimes thought outrageous and criminal by a subsequent generation. 

In ancient days a defeated army was slain and its women taken and its male children enslaved. This was thought normal. the Spartans thought it normal to expose a newly born male child to the elements in order to ensure, so the Spartans thought, that their male children were strong and worthy. Today we would be shocked by such behaviour which would rapidly bring prosecutions for child abuse murder and conspiracy to murder.

Today if the state prosecutes someone for acts committed thirty, forty or fifty years ago we will in some cases find that, as in the case of the Spartans, we are judging people by the moral standards  that we hold today now accepted into law for acts committed at times when the morality was different and when such acts would not have been considered worthy of prosecution.

Of course not all old cases fall into categories where morality and the application of law has changed, but some do and we should be especially cautious about launching prosecutions in such cases.

One Response

  1. The Greeks once told us the world was round, the Vatican it was flat, then modern men in the annals of power tell us we are creating our current warming, what has changed.

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