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. By all accounts it was a gruesome event. A deeply disturbed inmate attacked and killed his cell mate then proceeded to dismember and mutilate him. He then rang to tell the warders that he had killed his companion. First a single warder went to the cell, he immediately called for help and a further five prison officers arrived on the scene.
Later, because of the trauma they had suffered, all six were awarded over a million pounds in compensation and costs. The Home Office agreed to the compensation after a hearing with a High Court judge. Surprisingly, there is no mention of any compensation being paid to those who had to remove the body and clean the cell; nor of any money being paid to the pathologist who presumably carried out the legally required autopsy; nor is there any mention of compensation being paid to the undertakers who prepared the victim's remains for burial or cremation.
I do not wish in any way to question a high court judge's decision in that case or why they merited such a high amount in compensation. That settled claim should not be discussed here, I merely mention it as a recent example of a widespread and growing trend. But I could not but help compare it with what countless men and women had experienced in WW1 and WW2. In WW1 young men had to endure the screams and calls, growing ever weaker, of men badly injured and dying trapped in no-man's-land with no possibility whatsoever of assisting them or of mercifully finishing them off. Or of seeing limbs and corpses daily. The macabre scenes of WW2 were of a different kind but perhaps worse in horror, with mass executions and public hangings in the occupied countries. Bombing victims blasted beyond recognition; tank crews mangled to a pulp, ... I will not continue with the horrors which sadly became part of everyday experience during those terrible years. In both wars, young nurses had to deal with mangled bodies straight from the battlefield. Many of you will have seen footage or still photographs of the young Royal Engineers Sapper driving a bulldozer to push countless corpses into a mass grave at Belsen concentration camp; was he traumatised? If he was there wouldn't have been the faintest hope of him receiving any compensation.
Why is it that in WW1 if a young man, hitherto courageous, could not take such horrors any longer, was likely to end up with his eyes bound at dawn before a firing squad and executed for 'cowardice', yet now mature men receive vast sums in compensation for just one isolated incident? I am genuinely puzzled about this. A few of my valued friends will immediately recognise this topic, having already tentatively raised the subject with them, and although some of them might find the matter unpalatable, I would still welcome their comments.