The release of the Lockerbie bomber, Megrahi, has caused embarrassment, outrage and crtiticism in different degrees from various ministers and officials around the world.
The director of the FBI has told the Scottish Justice Secretary he was 'outraged' at Megrahi's release and says it 's made a mockery of the law and given comfort to terrorists.The Scottish First Minister says it was a 'grave error of judgment' which has damaged the reputation of Scotland.
And Downing Street releases the full text of a letter sent by Gordon Brown to Colonel Gaddafi wishing him a happy Ramadan and addressing him as "Dear Muammar".
Granted, the letter asked Gaddafi to 'act with sensitivity' over Megrahi's homecoming and said that a high-profile return would cause further unnecessary pain for the families of the Lockerbie victims and it would also undermine Libya's growing international reputation", but I (cynically?) think the intent was more sinister than this and therefore very worrying.
"Muammar" seems to have ignored all sensitivities (would the man understand the meaning, anyway?) and given Megrahi a hero's welcome and Gordon Brown has yet to explain his meeting with Gaddafi where they discussed the release.
But where does compassion begin and end and where does the act of releasing a convicted criminal become an insult to the public, the victims of the crime and all concerned? Last week Ronnie Biggs was released from prison on compassionate grounds - this is our legal system. like it or not. Megrahi has been released on compassionate grounds - he too is an ill man.
Does the difference in our opinions lie in the crime itself, the amount of people involved, our own opinion of seriousness of the crime or what ? Is it the length of time in prison that matters or whether we think the person is not going to do any harm to anyone anymore ?
I do not believe that this can be the proper way to be just - and I do agree with those that say it sends out the wrong signal to others...be they mass murderers, terrorists, bombers, train robbers or petty thieves.
Is there an answer ?