Whether you’re a railway ticket officer or Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, will justice be equal or biased?
A few days ago, I was tuning into the news, and it was one of the most harrowing things I’ve heard, especially during such sombre times. Belly Mujinga, 47, a railway ticket office worker, died after being spat at by a man who claimed he had COVID-19. Her family were interviewed to get her story more exposure, so they can fight for justice, rightly so. Her husband said the last time he saw her was when she went in hospital with symptoms and never saw her again as she passed away. Her daughter was shown during the interview sobbing, but trying her upmost to keep back the tears.
Mrs Mujinga was on the concourse of London’s Victoria station on 22nd of March, when she was approached by the suspect. Her husband said, the man had asked his wife what she was doing and why she was there. “She told him she was working and the man said he had the virus and spat on her and a colleague,” he added. According to the family, Belly and her colleague made clear they were scared for their lives and asked not to be sent back out and to instead work from inside the ticket office. But they were told that people were needed to work outside and were sent back for the rest of their shift.
Within days of the assault, both women fell ill with the virus. Mrs Mujinga died on the 2nd of April, leaving her husband and 11 year old daughter behind.
The family are fighting for justice, but even if the attacker is caught, lawyers say it is highly unlikely that someone who spits on someone would be charged with anything other than the relatively minor offence of battery, even if the victim person subsequently became seriously ill or died as a result of COVID-19. As if you could prove the causation element of the offence, then technically, in a situation where an individual suspects they could have COVID-19 and spits on another who then dies as a result of the infection, this could be manslaughter. After looking into more detail about the case that is only at early stages, it made me wonder.
The type of attack and the viciousness behind it, this had similarities to me that I’ve seen in other cases, regarding a different virus. We know viruses like HIV can be transmitted by bodily fluids. There’s one particular case that I know, Daryll Rowe was the first man in England, to be found guilty of intentionally setting out to spread the virus – HIV, and received at least 12 years up to life imprisonment. So, why should someone claiming they have a covid-19, which has killed hundreds of thousands worldwide so far, why should that be treated as a ‘minor assault’?
I understand that it’d be hard to prove, many cases like these are, as you must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the perpetrator caused the dire outcome. But surely that’s something that must be fought for rather than taking the nonsensical and easy way out of ‘minor assault’? To think in the same segment I watched her family mourning, lawyers say it’s highly unlikely that he’d be charged with anything more ‘minor assault’, is nothing less than the feeling of disgust. If the attacker knows or thinks he has covid-19 and does the same to 10 or 100 more people, would the outcome still look like ‘minor assault’? A life has been lost, it’d be indescribably hard to know for a fact that the perpetrator transmitted the virus to her, but what were his intentions? He clearly knows spitting on someone has a very high chance of spreading the virus. Especially such a serious illness, what was his intent saying “I have COVID” then spitting on her and her colleague immediately afterwards before they could even react to what he said? I think it’s quite obvious he intended to harm them, to what degree? We can’t say, but an action like spitting on someone when you’re contaminated or think you are, can lead to fatal consequences, and there has been a fatality. It also left me questioning..
There seem to be many discrepancies surrounding how her workplace dealt with this, and also a very perplexing almost questionable way around how lawyers are making out like they’re just voicing the law as they know it, almost even sounding like her family shouldn’t even begin their fight for more justice than a ‘minor assault’ charge, as they’d virtually have no chance. But would these lawyers be so helpful in sharing their knowledge with how they think this case will be handled, if the stature of the victim involved was more prominent?
If this happened to someone of a certain ‘social status’ like a Prime Minister/President/Member of Royal Family, and it resulted in the same tragedy, do you think they’d very likely be charged with ‘minor assault’, or manslaughter? As when Prime Minister, Boris Johnson was taken ill, he had to self isolate and take a step back from working, rightly so. I don’t think anyone would have expected otherwise. But when Mrs Mujinga, apparently pleaded to work in the ticket office, more protected from the general public after the attack, the request was turned down.
Every human life is equal, it’s only society and man-made surroundings that sometimes make us feel somewhat disconnected from others. When we humbly start out this life, we don’t have preconceived notions, we see each other as equal, as that’s all we naturally know. But somewhere between growing up and adult life, that’s where we learn that society may not view individuals as equals, but they might see us in categories. And throughout the duration of your life, you realise more categories arise. Where do these come from? They’re man-made. So when you rely on the justice system, does it truly see everyone as equal, or can it favour certain individuals?
Share your thoughts, and share Belly Mujinga’s story as much as you can.