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John Carruthers: Bridge Crimes & Punishments

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ibpa logoCapital 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.


John Carruthers

IBPA – International Bridge Press Association  – Bulletin No 617 – June 2016


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