Editorial  from the IBPA magazine and printed here with their permission

CAPITAL CRIMES 

John Carruthers   editor of the IBPA magazine

The opinions expressed here are solely the editor’s and do not necessarily

represent those of the IBPA Executive or its members.

Capital crimes in most countries are of two types: crimes against the state

(treason, etc.) and crimes against persons (murder, etc.). A third category of

crimes, those against property, are not generally considered capital offenses. Some

countries, such as Norway, have introduced maximum prison sentences (21 years)

with the goal of reintegrating the convicted criminal back into society, recognizing

that the propensity to criminal activity decreases sharply with age and maturity.

Others, such as Thailand, have no such sentiments, having recently imposed a

142,000-year sentence on a person convicted of more than 16,000 counts of

corporate fraud.

Bridge crimes are also typically of three types. Broadly speaking, and escalating in

severity, these are unethical behaviour (such as taking advantage of a hesitation),

solo cheating (such as copping results for unplayed boards) and collusion (with

partner or teammates) to signal illegally. Collusion is our capital offense and should

be treated as such. Repeated cheating in this fashion is our equivalent to society’s

serial killer.

Thus, collusion should be treated as the heinous offense it is, and not, as it is now

viewed, as some minor little irritant that we wish would go away. Cheats need to

be eliminated from the game. Collusion indicates a particular mindset that must

be eradicated if bridge is to be cleaned up and stay clean.

It is astonishing that recent ‘sentences’ for convicted cheats have been three,

four, or five years. And, in what amounts to nothing more than a slap on the wrist,

the convicted pairs are forbidden to play with each other ever again. Imagine

serial killers Kenneth Bianchi and his cousin Angelo Buono (the “Hillside Strangler”)

being sentenced to five years in prison for their 15 murders and then, upon their

release, being forbidden to associate with one another. What a punishment!

Recently, a top player (a former World Champion) confided to me, I hope tonguein-

cheek, that he wished he had begun cheating in his early years. “I could have

made millions,” he said, “and so what if they caught me now via video? Five years

later I’d be back.” This was from a person in his sixties of heretofore impeccable

ethics. It gives one pause for thought. Is this the kind of environment we wish to

encourage and develop? One in which a pair can weigh the pros and cons of

collusion and come to the conclusion that it is to their great advantage to cheat.

Because that is one consequence of the light sentences now being handed out.

Cheats are our sociopaths and must be treated as such. They know right from

wrong, it’s simply that they have no conscience and their own gratification must

be achieved no matter the cost to others. They need to be banned, not coddled.

A 21-year sentence is sufficient, there is no need for 142,000 years. Like Norway,

we are civilized after all.