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Law and Order continued....


In modern penal codes, restitution by the offender is sometimes taken into account, but it does not seem to figure largely in the verdict. The judge may direct in this respect, and of course, the aggrieved party can always petition for compensation. For example, a criminal involved in fraud and known to possess large sums of money obtained from his crimes (and probably hidden) the Courts can commandeer and recover such funds.

There is also a law which forbids criminals from profiting from their misdemeanours, such as selling their stories to the media etc.

There are instances in the Bible where restitution was mandatory. Under Israeli law, if a man stole a sheep or an ox, he was ordered to restore four sheep for each one stolen and five for each ox stolen(8). This meant that stolen property was returned with 300% or 400% interest! Again in the New Testament there is the famous story of Zaccheus who obviously became conscience-stricken when he met Jesus. He declared 'if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I will restore him fourfold'(9). In the days when that law was operating it would be a powerful deterrent, and if the offender could not or would not restore what he had purloined he had the option of selling himself as a slave.

There were no prisons as such in Israel, but six 'cities of refuge' were designated to which anyone who was guilty of an offence such as murder or manslaughter could flee pending a fair trial(10). The cities were a safeguard against any relatives of a victim taking the law into their own hands. It is understood that under Islamic procedures today the families of victims are sometimes consulted about the punishment to be adminstered to the guilty.

Index to the topic

Law and Order
A Postscript on Capital Punishment

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