According to John Harding, former chief probation officer of the Inner London Probation Service (now the London Probation Area), a demonstration of remorse at trial can often depend on the defendant’s mental state. In the UK, most murders are committed by youths under 21 years old and, he says, “remorse is not necessarily an emotion that is very evolved with these individuals”.
This might help explain the much commented-upon behaviour of Amanda Knox, the young American student convicted by an Italian court last year of murdering her roommate, Meredith Kercher, in 2007, when Knox was 20 years old. Knox was widely criticised for her lack of remorse, a lack that was proven – so the argument goes – by her performing cartwheels at the police station after being brought in for questioning. Although Knox maintained her innocence at trial, her failure to appear sufficiently contrite was frequently cited. Prosecutors have now filed an appeal against the 26-year jail term she received, arguing it is too lenient, reportedly in part because she showed no remorse.