Bring Back Hanging?

Everybody has an opinion on the death penalty, so you are either in the mob to restore the death penalty or you are in the camp of being opposed to doing so – no ‘don’t knows’ on this one! Every now and again the smouldering embers of the death penalty fire are poked and the debate bursts into flames again (must be about due!). Passions are raised, tempers flare up, insults are thrown, friends are lost and families are split.

No one has actually been hanged in the UK since the mid sixties of course (when it was abolished), but that is a matter of great regret to a large section of the population. When parliament has debated the matter of the reintroduction of capital punishment it has been rejected, despite the belief that the majority of people actually are in favour (for murderers in certain circumstances) – but don’t expect a referendum soon! There was a failed attempt last year to force another parliamentary debate, using the new government e-petition facility (only a quarter of the 100k required participated); however, most people never heard about it so that result perhaps isn’t such a good indicator

The liberal opinion camp opposed to capital punishment believe that because every life is sacrosanct, state sponsored killing isn’t acceptable in a civilized society, however heinous the crimes.

Now this view would seem to ignore the fact that the state is prepared to’ kill’ in certain circumstances – in conflict situations, our armed forces kill thousands including innocent men women and children (so called collateral damage!). Our forces though are described as ‘brave men & women’ and not ‘executioners’. Therefore, it is obvious that the state still reserves to itself the right to take life – as in the case of Jean Charles de Menezes, shot dead by agents of the state when he was mistaken for a suicide bomber, or similarly the unresolved shooting & killing of Mark Duggan in Tottenham.

However, Amnesty International’s view is that the death penalty is the ultimate denial of human rights and constitutes the premeditated and cold-blooded killing of a human being by the state in the name of justice. The question consequently arises that if a killer has deliberately ‘terminated forever’ the human rights of another person are they entitled to claim human rights for themselves? That opposed camp also claims that it is more expensive to carry out executions than to keep murderers in prison for the remainder of their lives, because of high legal costs involved in the great number of appeals. This might be true in the USA, but surely hardly in the UK! Another objection to capital punishment is that there is the risk of miscarriages of justice – but in the modern age that risk should be insignificant and it seems highly improbable.

The mob baying for restoration of capital punishment have a relatively simple case: The state should reserve the right to enact the ultimate penalty on those who commit murder. That right is not necessarily to be enacted for all murderers but would be held in reserve for especially heinous killings or specific types of slayings. The invoking of capital punishment in a particular case would be the prerogative of the court. It is envisaged for example that the violent killing of two little girls in a school caretaker’s house might fall into this category, as could the callous slaying by shooting of a policewoman in Bradford, or the shooting in a hail of bullets of two women police officers lured to their deaths in Manchester.

Supporters of the death penalty are not predominately right wing zealots with a primitive desire for revenge, but are individuals who feel that society affords inadequate protection to the innocent and that there is a new cheapness of human life, encouraged by the easy availability of weapons including knives and illegal firearms, and a lack of deterrence from using them. It may be relevant that the murder rate has in some years quadrupled since the abolition of capital punishment

Surely the state has a duty of protection to potential victims, as well as the effective punishment of perpetrators of murder? However awful the consequences of enacting the death penalty might be, the state must have that power to adequately fulfill its proper role.

Although some murderers cannot be discouraged by fear, nevertheless the death penalty is seen as a major deterrent in general. Execution itself ensures that the murderer is removed from society and cannot kill anybody else (in the past decade over 30 people have been killed by released convicted murderers). Keeping a convicted murderer in prison for many years (sometimes till they die) might be seen in itself as a cruel and unusual punishment and is a major drain on resources and comes at a high cost.

It should be noted that murderers are only convicted and sentenced after a trial – a benefit not granted to their victims.

While hanging is not necessarily the method that might be used in UK capital punishment, and it is vilified by the other camp as a horrific and cruel punishment, it is actually the most common method people choose to commit suicide here.

UK’s position as a member of the European Union actually precludes us from using capital punishment

Some religious supporters of capital punishment rely on the Bible

                        “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed.”



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