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Wednesday, November 16, 2016, 23:41

Two life sentences and a call to conscience

By Sam Beatson

Sam Beatson writes that the descent of convicted murderer Rurik Jutting into a nightmare of substance abuse culminating in wanton, vicious sadism exposes dangerous fault lines in society and is an urgent call to responsibility.

On Halloween, Dr Richard Latham, a consultant forensic psychiatrist in Britain’s National Health Service, told the High Court that Rurik Jutting’s “narcissistic personality’’ combined with cocaine, alcohol and sexual sadism disorders left him unable to control his actions at the time of his torture and killing of two Indonesian domestic helpers who freelanced as prostitutes.

Two life sentences and a call to conscienceHowever, the defense of his being rendered out of control by drug abuse combined with his personality disorder — the latter of which was disputed by prosecution expert witnesses — was insufficient and he has now received two life sentences to be served concurrently.

There is no doubt that drugs played a massive role in this crime. There are other lowlifes that play a part here — the dealers and pushers — but the real question is how can responsible society learn and grow from a morbidly fascinating and yet truly awful case.

Responsibility for one’s actions is a clear message, whether on drugs, in receipt of a psychiatric diagnosis or having a troubled or indeed privileged past. At some level we must accept personal responsibility for our actions.

The honorable deputy High Court judge, Michael Stuart-Moore, reprimanded Jutting for his lack of an apology until the final hour, and reminded the court how Jutting has lived a life beyond most people’s wildest dreams in terms of upbringing, education and career opportunities.

The Jutting case thus mirrors the tragic alienation of seeming over-achievers and their downfall, which probably could have been averted if we all could be our brother’s keeper, act purely out of compassion for others in distress, and be ready to reach out and lend a helping hand.  

Drug addiction affects most societies. In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte has resorted to vigilante justice as an extreme way to eliminate the scourge of widespread addiction in his country. His unorthodox attempt to eliminate suppliers will not succeed unless it is accompanied by equally bold efforts to rehabilitate addicts, thereby eliminating the cause for the continued demand for illicit drugs.

Recall the recent case of Nepalese men behaving violently in the streets of Mong Kok. It is not a stretch to imagine that there was a drug element involved. Addiction is no respecter of wealth, affiliation, social status or race.

Hong Kong is fortunate though in that it has an abundance of psychiatric and psychological support services run by government and voluntary agencies, many of which are free. These include the Samaritans helpline, 2896 0000, operated 24 hours a day, and Narcotics Anonymous, http://hk-na.org/.

The government should step up the publicity of such services. There should be no prejudice against those who wish to avail themselves of the services.

The Social Welfare Department operates clinical psychology units in various districts: www.swd.gov.hk/en/index/site_pubsvc/page_cps/sub_listofclin/

The Security Bureau’s Narcotics Division runs various drug treatment and rehabilitation services: www.nd.gov.hk/en/treatment.htm

Those at risk must not be allowed to deteriorate to the stage of Jutting. In the workplace and out of it, one must not hesitate in reporting a colleague or friend for their extreme self-isolation or drug-abusive behavior, severe depression or other obvious mental and psychological abnormalities along with refusing to seek help. There should be no sense of impropriety or shame in taking such caring action. In fact, it could save lives. Employees should be trained to spot such telltale signs and to report them for their own and others’ safety. The business community should give Hong Kong’s holistic drug treatment facilities and services greater prominence, as clearly there is a subculture in which some employees resort to drug-taking to help them cope with their intense work pressure.

The sensational trial has also caused international media to highlight prostitution among a minority of domestic workers. Efforts must be made to prevent young women from prostituting themselves to increase their bottom line. These are the daughters, friends, sisters, cousins and grandchildren of somebody. This minority and their customers should be alerted to the potential health, emotional, reputational, relationship and career damage such activities might cause them. Prostitution in various guises should be actively discouraged in the present circumstances, unless there is a major policy shift to regulate it beyond current laws with a view to giving utmost protection to both service providers and customers.

The Jutting case should be leveraged as a conscience call to responsibility by all. A shift toward a more compassionate form of capitalism in the workplace and less obsession with material gain in society is overdue in Hong Kong. It should be recognized that addiction recovery is possible but requires the community’s active support.

Together, residents can and must act together to keep the phenomenal world city of Hong Kong safe, vibrant and attractive, not just to attract investors, but for themselves, their children and all those who pass through. Honesty is needed to confront inevitable problems head-on with sensible solutions, recognizing and supporting vital services and interventions.

The author holds a fellowship at Lau China Institute, King’s College London and is an active alumnus at St. John’s College, University of Hong Kong.

 
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