The Punishment of Starving Thieves: The Barbarism of Modern Britain

Medieval Law Court

A 15th century law court

One of the commenter’s to Mike’s blog, Vox Political, R. Jim Edge, reported an appalling miscarriage of British justice. The comment is on Mike’s post, reblogged from Pride’s Purge, about the death of a mentally ill man, Mark Wood, from starvation. Wood had been sanctioned by Atos, and this exacerbated his mental illness. He developed an eating disorder, and refused money his family gave to spend on food. He died weighing just over 5 stone, with a body mass index of 11.5. The full details are on Pride’s Purge and the Void. R. Jim Edge commented

Its going to get worse, just this week in Chester a woman who stole some groceries from TESCO because she had had her benefits stopped was (and this is the good bit) fined £30 and ordered to pay £80 compensation to tesco.

This is actually a more unjust legal decision than the notoriously harsh punishments associated with medieval law. The popular image of the medieval punishment for theft was that thieves had their hands amputated. In England the punishment depended on the amount stolen. If it was over a certain number of shillings, then the thief was fined. If it was over the amount, he was hanged. However, theologians argued that if someone stole bread because they were starving, then that person had done so out of necessity, not wickedness. In their opinion, they should not be punished.

The woman in Chester was clearly motivated from hunger, if she had had her benefit stopped. By the standards of medieval law, therefore, she should not have been fined, nor had to give compensation to Tesco. By this standard, the law now is worse than that of the Middle Ages. IDS and the Coalition really are leading us back to barbarism.

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5 Responses to “The Punishment of Starving Thieves: The Barbarism of Modern Britain”

  1. Mike Sivier Says:

    Reblogged this on Vox Political and commented:
    Thanks to the Beast for raising the profile of this matter.

  2. untynewear Says:

    Reblogged this on UNEMPLOYED IN TYNE & WEAR.

  3. stilloaks Says:

    Reblogged this on Still Oaks and commented:
    The rich do not steal they simply make mistakes, apologise and rarely if ever get punished. While the undeserving poor are classed as criminals and punished mercilessly simply for being hungry and trying to feed themselves.

  4. jaypot2012 Says:

    Reblogged this on Jay's Journal.

  5. stewilko Says:

    Reblogged this on stewilko's Blog.

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