Two years ago a man went to work in Brussels and forgot his six month old baby in the car. Upon his return after work, the child had died from dehydration.
After arrest and interrogation, he is arraigned for involuntary manslaughter. Two years later the case comes to court. The prosecution demands a conviction for involuntary manslaughter, but does not push for any effective prison term or other punishment: they will be satisfied with a confession of guilt. The defense demands acquittal.
The judge has followed the defense and grants acquittal. What is (more than) surprising is not the acquittal as such, because it was obvious that the ‘crime’ was an accident rather than a willful act, and that the father has already been punishment enough by having to live with the loss of his child and the memory of his deadly negligence.
What is, indeed, stupefying, is that the judge motivates the decision of acquittal by stating: if a person can forget a mobile phone in the car, then (s)he can also forget his baby, for it shows that a person is not in control of the brain function which we call memory. Therefore (s)he cannot be guilty.
Such judgments open a Pandora Box of questions, starting
with “to what extent is attention for a mobile equal to attention for your own
little baby” or, less straightforward, do we all suffer from serious Altzheimer from Day Zero?
Worse for "civilisation at large" though, is the very basis of the argument: namely the thought that our legal system now has put a stake in the ground where “not remembering” has become just a bodily function over which we have no direct control, a disease really, which (obviously) affects some people more often than others, and some people in a totally different degree than others.
This ruling must be a first in the so-called civilised world (and is almost definitely impossible anywhere else in the world). Considering that Belgium is one of the most advanced and rich countries in the world, the ruling implies that the (o so advanced) Belgians are less and less in control of themselves, that they are turning into “just mammals”, with a brain – at one time yonder the center of human supremacy – that leads a natural life all by itself, like a liver perhaps. The ruling may also illustrate that the judge, being Belgian among Belgians, is already a vivid example of this new brand of homo sapiens, namely those people with brains they don’t at all control.
Grimburger, October 14th 2014