The Guardian’s conversion

The murder of Stephen Lawrence became an infamous case in England, and his killers’ sentencing last month finally caused the Guardian to find an instance of imprisonment that it supported. Dalrymple welcomes their conversion, but this statement in their editorial on the matter

But it would of course have been preferable if justice not been deferred to the point where the culprits were adults with hard lives etched deep into their faces.

brings this response in a piece on the Social Affairs Unit blog:

What is interesting is that, by saying that the faces of the culprits have their lives etched on their faces, the Guardian is implicitly endorsing the necessity, inevitability and wisdom of prejudice and discrimination. A person who failed to take notice of what is “etched” on the faces of the two convicted men would not be saintly, but a fool worthy to be Archbishop of Canterbury, even if not everyone with the face of a thug is actually a thug.

The desire to have no prejudices is therefore absurd, both because in practice it is impossible and because it is the desire to be a fool. The point is not to have no prejudices, but to be aware of them and also to have the constant mental flexibility to override them if the evidence requires it. That people can put aside their prejudices is, after all, the basic principle of the jury trial. People are not to be convicted because they have nasty faces etched by nasty lives, but because the evidence proves that they did what they are accused of having done. But even if acquitted, we still avoid people with nasty faces, and usually (though not always) rightly so.

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