Rod Liddle

You have to be very careful who you murder these days

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So, another year closes and, with it, the window of opportunity for murdering transgendered people. Henceforth it will simply not be worth the effort. Hitherto you could have murdered one of these sorts of person and have been out of prison in rather less than a decade. Now, though, thanks to the Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke, the tariff for murdering a transgendered person will double, to a full 30 years. In most other cases, Ken wants jail tariffs reduced or removed altogether, but when it comes to certain ‘hate crimes’ then, like Guardian leader writers, he undergoes a weird metamorphosis and becomes suddenly avid for the gallows.

Of course, trying to divine what goes through some murderer’s mind — hatred, or just a psychopathic dislike? — leaves the judicial system at the mercy of inexactitudes and vagaries. If, for example, you were to murder the transgendered artist Grayson Perry because he said something typically vapid on the BBC’s Question Time, while dressed as Little Bo Peep, I suppose you might try to argue that it was not his gender which had inflamed your senses but his political views, or perhaps his contribution to the world of art. This was truly a hate crime, then, but not one occasioned by anything to do with Mr Perry’s complex libido, about which you might assure the jury you know nothing and care even less. So you could try to argue that, but I would counsel you against it (especially not if you add the observation as I just did that he was dressed as Little Bo Peep. Just say he was dressed as a ‘nice lady’ if you are going to pursue this avenue). But all in all, I think that if you have a wish to murder someone it would be advisable to exclude all transgendered people from your list of candidates, no matter how tempting it might be in some cases.

Likewise disabled people, for Mr Clarke intends to double the tariff for people who murder them out of some sort of strange hatred for their disability, whatsoever it might be. I suspect that you will not be treated leniently by the court, no matter how patiently you explain that it was not the person’s disability which provoked you to kill him per se, it was simply that you’d always wanted to kill someone and picked on a disabled person because you thought it might be a bit easier, seeing as they were partially incapacitated. Technically it would not be a hate crime as such; it would instead be a crime of expediency, but I doubt very much that you will get away with it. They will tie you up in knots in the courtroom.

Obviously — and this goes without saying — you would be ill advised, for the same reasons, to murder someone from an ethnic minority, a religion which is different to your own, anyone from the gay and lesbian community and indeed women. If you are going to murder someone and wish to be out in time for the World Cup in Qatar, then you are best advised to choose someone who is white, straight, male, Christian and if possible middle class, and attempt to convince the court that it was an accident. If you can manage this, you’ll probably be out for the European Championships in Poland and the Ukraine in the middle of next year. Sorted.

But even then you would have to be careful under the disability clause. It is entirely possible that you might discover in court that the victim who you blithely assumed was perfectly healthy was actually in receipt of a considerable monthly disability benefit stipend, perhaps as a consequence of stress or one of its many newly discovered and closely related illnesses, and that you therefore will be facing the full 30-year tariff for your crime. According to recent government figures almost all people in Britain are in receipt of some form of disability benefit on account of stress or whiplash or the neurological disorder fibromyalgia — so, in short, you need to undertake a lot of painstaking research when selecting your murder victim and not go about the job with your machete willy-nilly. Preferably, you should choose someone who has worked for a living for about 30 years and never had a day off sick. Just to be sure.

Luckily, to accompany these new jail tariffs, the government intends to explain to five-year-old children why it is wrong to murder transgendered people because they are transgendered, rather than murder them because they might be annoying. This is joined-up government in action. Next year, children in infant schools will have the happy state of transgenderedness explained to them in a certain amount of detail and enjoined to love and cherish these people, instead of killing them or laughing at them. This will undoubtedly be welcome news for Britain’s million upon million of transgendered folk, who have suffered slightly more than one murder in the last ten years.

But there are at least three categories of people who it is still comparatively ok to murder and who teachers will ignore entirely when inculcating in their very young charges who it is fine to hate and who one shouldn’t hate. These are, in order of appearance, intersex people, questioning people and hermaphrodites. Questioning people are those who do not have a clue about their sexual orientation; intersex people are those who seem to go for a bit of both but are not technically bisexual. Hermaphrodites you know about. How long do these people have to wait before they are recognised by our legal system as people one shouldn’t, under any circumstances, murder?