Judith Tebbutt is free, but ransoms raise some impossible moral dilemmas

The kidnappers were Somali pirates who raided Kiwayu using speedboats. This is not the first time that British people have been kidnapped by Somali pirates. You may remember the case of the couple who were sailing round the world and whose boat was captured near the Seychelles. Paul and Rachel Chandler were taken on October 23 2009 and spent more than a year in captivity. They were released at a place called Adado,  which is where Mrs Tebbutt was released too. It is not inconceivable that Mrs Tebbutt and the Chandlers were held by the same people.

There is another thing that the two cases have in common. It seems that Mrs Tebbutt’s son paid US $1.1 million to secure her release; in the case of the Chandlers, the sum paid is supposed to be in the region of three quarters of a million US dollars.

Piracy in the waters off Somalia is a problem that will not go away and the payment of such substantial ransoms means that such piracy is profitable. Of course one is glad that the Chandlers and Mrs Tebbutt are now safe, but the payment of ransoms to criminals will surely encourage more piracy in the future. Was it right to pay up? It might well have been understandable, but was it morally right? I cannot see how it can have been, but I dread to think how I would have acted had I been in the shoes of Mrs Tebbutt’s son.

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What do you think? And if it is wrong to pay ransoms to pirates, what should our government do about it? Ought they to make the payment of ransoms by private individuals illegal?

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