Recently I was reading a popular newspaper when I came across a piece about a fatal misjudgement made by the criminal justice system. A misjudgement of character that led to the killing of an innocent mother of two twin boys. It got me wondering whether there are some people who are beyond rehabilitation.
The killer, Albert Flick, had been convicted in the 1970s of murdering his wife. He had stabbed the woman to death during a frenzied attack in front of her young daughter. This was not his first serious crime against women, but it was the crime that caused him to be sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
Albert was released in 2004 and seemed to slip off the authorities’ radar. That was until 2010 when Albert was arrested and convicted of an assault on another woman. A crime which would see the murderer serve more years inside. After 4 years in prison, Albert was paroled. In 2014 the judge ignored recommendations of further imprisonment, believing the elderly man was now too old to be a danger and was no longer a threat to the public.
But in 2018 Flick, then 76, murdered again. A homeless woman in her late 30s was killed in an almost identical attack as his first slaying during the 1970s. A homeless woman that this old man had become infatuated with, and had subsequently started to follow and stalk.
This year, Albert Flick was captured, charged with murder, and sentenced to life for this crime.
In 2010, when the presiding judge ignored recommendations of a longer sentence due to his defendant’s age and failing health, he had unknowingly opened the doors to an environment that led to this horrendous crime.
Elsie Clement, the daughter of his first victim, felt that the lack of understanding of the mentality of someone like Flick led to the second killing. She felt that someone now needed to explain why a person with such a violent past was on the streets in the first place. Along with how such a crime was committed, when the authorities knew of his past and surely understood his capabilities, despite his age.
For me, this is a crucial matter. The fact that such a poor decision by authorities allowed a man like this to offend again, in an identical pattern, is something we must question. In my own opinion, we must accept that crime does not have a face or a distinct feature. A criminal surely can be that elderly man next door. That a criminal can be that chatty lady that walks her dog with you on a Sunday afternoon. It could even be your best friend that you have known for many years, but secretly walks another life that you didn’t know about.
At the same time, that bearded man with the tatoos you cross the road to avoid could be the most law-abiding citizen you’ll ever meet.
To understand this, we must first accept that men like Flick have a flaw within them, meaning they act in a different way. Unusual ways that are far from normal people like you or me. These impulses are deeply engrained in the brain and will not just disappear with age or failing health unless they are correctly treated by professionals and rehabilitation is offered, accepted and adhered to such offenders. Even then, there may be some people who are so damaged that they are beyond help.
Flick will surely now die in prison but through this awful crime, have we now learnt something? Can law enforcement learn or better understand that stereotyping individuals can lead to major crimes being committed and innocent people being locked up.
I believe that this is something former offenders can help with. Who better to evaluate the character of a criminal than another former offender?