SHOULD THE DEATH PENALTY BE REINSTATED IN THE UK? – In 1965 the Murder Act abolished the death penalty in Great Britain. The Act was introduced as a Private Members Bill and was to see the act of murder being punishable by a sentence of life imprisonment.
The original act contained a clause that unless renewed by Parliament within a period of 5 years the act would be repealed. However in 1969 the Act was renewed and subsequent changes in the law finally abolished the death penalty in 1998.
For more information see – Wikipedia
One of the biggest issues any society faces is that of controlling and preventing crime.
The UK, whilst still being listed as having the highest level of violent crime in Europe, its problems of crime is certainly not unique. Every country has its own unique set of problems and there are many countries around the world that have a far higher crime rate than the UK, even though they uphold the death penalty.
As we have watched the level of violent crime rise in the UK over the last decade or so many British citizens blame the rise on the increasing levels of foreign migrants and indeed there is hard data to support the rise in crime to the increase in migrants.
The debate for the reinstatement of the death penalty in the UK is nothing new and yet both the House of Commons and the House of Lords refuse to support any notion of a public referendum.
There is little doubt that the only way the death penalty would or could be reinstated in the UK is through a public referendum. Whilst there are politicians who would support such a Bill there are probably more that would not and it is this opposition that prevents a democratic public vote.
The issue lies mainly in fear; that is the Government fear that people, motivated through anger and growing fear that the UK is being turned into a cesspit of criminal activity, would vote in favour without considering the consequences to what the death penalty really entails.
The question here is would you, if given a referendum, vote for the reinstatement of the death penalty and if so what crimes would be punishable by death.
We live in a society that we like to perceive as being decent, sociable and moral and yet as the crime level continues to rise each of these attributes that make up a society that is safe is being attacked from every quarter.
If the death penalty was to be reinstated the obvious use of this would be for the crime of capital murder. There are of course a number of ways a human life can be taken, for instance, by accident or a premeditated act. In countries that do impose the death penalty this is generally reserved for those who engaged in the act of premeditated murder. Other lesser penalties such as manslaughter, which is the taking of a life without ‘malice aforethought’, are punishable by incarceration.
Definition of Manslaughter:
“The crime of killing a human being without malice aforethought, or otherwise in circumstances not amounting to murder.”
I have always believed that manslaughter cases should carry a much harsher sentence and where appropriate the ultimate price should be paid by sentencing the perpetrator to death.
Yesterday I wrote an article on Mrs. Clark, an 85 year old grandmother, who was mugged by two youths. Mrs. Clark died as a result of her injuries just hours after the attack. The next day the two youths carried out yet another attack on a pensioner and were convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to just 6 years in prison with the likelihood of being released within 3 years.
In a completely separate incident a man was banned from driving on no less than eight occasions by the courts and the fact that he didn’t have a driver’s licence to begin with didn’t deter him from continuously breaking the law. Finally he borrowed a friend’s car and while driving recklessly caused a horrific accident that killed a young woman.
Again the charge of manslaughter was applied and the man received a prison sentence of just five and a half years.
The issue I have with manslaughter is that sometimes; as in both the cases above, the ‘malice aforethought’ is often not applied. Could it not be argued that both these particular instances carry malice? Is it not obvious that without malice that neither of these victims lives would have been taken?
The issue with the death penalty will always be a moral one; that is should we have the right to end the life of another, even under the sanction of law? The other question that is also highly pertinent is that of whether the death penalty would have a significant impact on the crime of murder. There are those who suggest that the death penalty has no scientific evidence to suggest that the death penalty is a deterrent.
Research in the United States has revealed that the Southern States account for approximately 80% of all U.S executions and yet has the highest rate of murder.
Another argument is that it would be cheaper to execute someone rather than keeping them imprisoned at the taxpayers’ expense.
In a recent study in the U.S it was revealed that it cost more to execute a person rather than condemn then to a sentence of life imprisonment. In 2011 a study uncovered that the State of California has spent over US$4 billion on capital punishment services since being reinstated in 1978. The costs of a murder trial, where prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, are also 20 times that of a trial that seeks the penalty of life imprisonment. The current cost, according to the study, reveals that some US$185 million is spent each year, just by California alone, for administering the death penalty and that this figure is set to rise dramatically over the next 5 years.
Who we execute and on what evidence is yet another highly debatable issue. There have been numerous cases in history where a person has been executed only for authorities to discover, at a later date, evidence proving innocence.
It would appear so easy to think that with all the forensic science available that people would rarely be convicted wrongfully. Note the word ‘rarely’ because that is the whole issue here – the ‘What If’ scenario will always play out and when you consider that reports recently released noted that the U.S Justice System executed four people in the last 2 years alone who were wrongfully convicted is evidence to suggest that the death penalty system is seriously flawed.
In a recent article I read opposing the death penalty ‘DeathPenalty.org’ provided 10 facts why the death penalty should be abolished in the United States – see: deathpenalty.org
I honestly believe that the British public, if given a referendum, would vote for the reinstatement of the death penalty but what I am not convinced about is the wider issue of whether the public truly understand the magnitude of the death penalty and importantly what crimes should carry such a penalty.
The British often admonish other countries who do have the death penalty such as the United States and most of the Middle East. Of course the methods of dispensing such justice are notably different. For instance a person convicted of First Degree Murder in certain states that apply the death penalty could indeed spend decades on Death Row before finally being executed. In the Middle East a person found guilty of a crime that is punishable by death is executed within days.
Again there are wider issues consider; if the UK were introduce the death penalty under what period of time would the sentence be carried out? Is it immoral, as many suggest, allowing a person to languish on death row for decades before finally carrying out the sentence or should those found guilty be afforded every opportunity to fight for the lesser sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
The real issue here lies in human emotion. It is always easy to call for the reinstatement of the death penalty where we are morally offended and angered by the heinous nature of the crime.
There are a few questions that must be answered before the any form of consideration of reinstating the death penalty can take place; including the key issue of evidence that is beyond doubt and not allow for the concept of ‘reasonable doubt’. We must, if the death penalty is to be applied, have absolutely no doubt as to guilt and evidence must support this fully.
Considering the amount of news that I write that involved heinous crime I often feel the death penalty should be reinstated in the UK. The argument of costs, in my view, plays no role as justice should never be about money but about providing justice to the victim.
As some studies have suggested the death penalty is not a deterrent my view is that it doesn’t have to be. The idea is simply to ensure that those involved in crimes that warrant the death penalty will never again have the opportunity to commit a crime whereby the life of another is taken. The focus here must remain on justice for the victims and not the rights of the criminal.
Regardless of the continued debate it is most unlikely that the death penalty will ever be reintroduced in Great Britain. There are simply too many variables and the issue of taking another life, under a moral society, is something that most, when truly considering all the areas, is simply not justifiable.
If a referendum on the Death Penalty were provided would you vote to reinstate the death penalty or do you feel putting someone to death in simply as heinous as the crime itself? Please leave your comments below in the box or contact us.