Arguments for and against capital punishment
Arguments for and against capital punishment.
Page 1 of 11
Is cap ita l pu n is hm e nt et h ically a cc ep ta b le ?
Arguments for ca p ital p unis h m e n t
Arguments aga in s t ca p ital pu nishm e n t
The future of c apital p u nishm ent in B rita in
Should capital punishment b e r e-in tro d u ced?
Alternatives to capita l pu n ish ment
L ife ithg u t ! "L# le
$ea th v ersus deterrence
% a d o r bad?
"ital punishment and the media
&ain and s uffering - i s the deat h p e na lty -a cr u el
and unusual punishment?
Can c a pital punishment ev er b e h um a ne?
"#nc' -us io n s
Capital punishment is the laful infliction of death as a punishment and since ancient times it has been used for a
ide variety of offences. The Bible prescribes death for-murder and many other crimes including (idnapping and
itchcraft) By *+,, in -ngland. only ma/or felonies carried the death penalty - treason. murder. larceny. burglary.
rape. and arson. 0rom *123. under the 45altham Blac( Acts4. &arliament enacted many ne capital offences and
this led to an increase in the number of people being put to death each year. In the *,$ years from *16, - *738
there ere a total of up to 71+3 civilian e9ecutions in -ngland : 5ales. the pea( year as *17+ ith 3,1.
!emember that the population in *7,, as /ust 8 million.
!eform of the death penalty began in -urope by the *1+,'s and as championed by academics such as the
Italian /urist. Cesare Beccaria. the 0rench philosopher. ;oltaire. and the -nglish la reformers. <eremy Bentham
and Samuel !omilly They argued that the death penalty as needlessly cruel. over-rated as a deterrent and
occasionally imposed in fatal error. Along ith #ua(er leaders and other social reformers. they=defended life
imprisonment as a more rational alternative.
By the *7+,'s. these reform efforts began to bear fruit. ;ene>uela ?*7+3@ and &ortugal ?*7A1@ere the first
nations to abolish the death penalty altogether In the Bnited States. %ichigan as the first state to abolish it for
. murder in *761. Today. it is virtually abolished in all of 5estern -urope and most of Latin America
Britain effectively abolished capital punishment in *8A+ ?for the full story of abolition c li c ( h e re @.
The BSA. together ith China. <apan and many Asian and %iddle -astern countries. plus some African states still
retain the death penalty for certain crimes and impose it ith varying freCuency. Clic( herefor a detailed list of
abolishionist and retentionist countries.
Is capital punishment ethically acceptable? D
The state clearly has no absolute right to put its sub/ects to death although. of course. almost all countries do so in
some form or other ?but not necessarily by some conventional form of capital punishment@. In most countries. it is
by arming their police forces and accepting the fact that people ill from time to time be shot as a result and
therefore at the state's behest. .
A ma/ority of a state's sub/ects may ish to confer the right to put certain classes of criminal to death through
referendum or voting in state elections for candidates favouring capital punishment. %a/ority opinion in some
democratic countries. including the B.E. is still in favour of the death penalty.
It is reasonable to assume that if a ma/ority is in favour of a particular thing in a democracy. their ishes should be
seriously considered ith eCual consideration given to the donside of their vies.
A fact that is conveniently overloo(ed by anti-capital punishment campaigners is that e are all ultimately going to
die. In many cases. e ill (no of this in advance and suffer great pain and emotional anguish in the process.
This is particularly true of those diagnosed as having terminal cancer It is apparently acceptable to be 4sentenced
to death4 by one's family doctor ithout having committed any crime at all but totally unacceptable to be
sentenced to death by a /udge having been convicted of murder or drug traffic(ing Fthe crimes for hich the
ma/ority of e9ecutions orldide are carried outG after a fair and careful-trial
mhrmi:file:lIT-f:\S42009\Arguments tor and against capital punishmentmht 11!"!200#
Arguments for and against capital punishment
Let us e9amine the merits of both the pro and anti arguments.
Page 2 of 1 $
prove much cheaper and
safer for the rest of us than long term or permanent
incarceration. It is self evident that dead criminals cannot
commit any further crimes. either ithin prison or after
escaping or being released from it.
%oney is not an ine9haustible commodity and the state may
very ell better spend our ?limited@ resources on the
old. the young and the sic( etc.. rather than on the long term
imprisonment of murderers. rapists. etc.
Anti-capital punishment campaigners in the B.S. cite the
higher cost of e9ecuting someone over life in prison. but
this ?hilst true for America@ has to do ith the endless
appeals and delays in carrying out death sentences that
are alloed under the B.S. legal system here the average
time spent on death ro is over ** years. In Britain in
the 2,th century. the average time in the. condemned cell
as from 3 to 7 ee(s and there as only one appeal
-9ecution is a very real punishment rather than some form of
4rehabilitative4 treatment. the criminal is made to
suffer in proportion to the offence. Although hether there is a
place in a modern society for the old fashioned
principal of 4le9 talens4 ?an eye for an eye@. is a matter of
personal opinion. !etribution is seen by many as an
acceptable reason for the death penalty according to my survey
$oes the death penalty deter? It is hard to prove one ay or
the other because in most retentionist countries the
number of people actually e9ecuted per year ?as compared
to those sentenced to death@ is usually a very small
proportion. It ould. hoever. seem that in those countries
?e.g. Singapore@ hich almost alays carry out death
sentences. there is far less serious crime. This tends to
indicate that the death penalty is a deterrent. but only
here e9ecution is an absolute certainty. The death penalty
is much more li(ely to be a deterrent here the crime
reCuires planning and the potential criminal has time to thin(
about the possible conseCuences. 5here the crime
is committed in the heat of the moment there is no li(elihood
that any punishment ill act as a deterrent. There is
a strong argument here for ma(ing murder committed in
these-circumstances not punishable by death.
Anti-death penalty campaigners alays argue that-death-
is nora deterrent and.usually site studies based upon
American states to prove their point. This is. in my vie.
flaed-and probably chosen to be deliberately
misleading. Let us e9amine the situation in 3 countries.
The rates for unlaful (illings in Britain have morehan
doubled since abolition of capital punishment in *8A6 from
,.A7 per *,,H,,, of the population to * .62 per *,,.,,,.
Iome Jffice figures sho around unlaful (illings 3,, in
*8A6. hich rose to +A+ in *886 and 733 in 2,,6 .. The
figure for homicides in 2,,1 as 136. The principal
causes of homicide are fights i"volving fists and feet. stabbing a"d
cutting by.glass or a. bro(en bottle. shooting !"
and stranglmg. 12K of the victims ere male 5ith young men
beinC most at fis(. Convictions for the actual crime T&
of murder ?as against manslaughter and other unlaful (illings@
have also been rising ine9orably Beteen *8,L
and *8A+ they ran at an average of 28 per year. There ere +1 in
*8A+ - the first year of abolition. Ten years
later the total for the year as *,1 hich rose to *13 by *87+
and 2*6 in *88+. There have been 1* murders
committed by people ho have been released after serving
4life sentences4 in the period beteen *8A+ and *887
according to Iome Jffice statistics. Some A.3,, people are
currently serving sentences of 4life in prison4 for
Statistics ere (ept for the + years that capital punishment
as suspended in Britain ?*8A+-*8A8@ and these
shoed a *2+K rise in murders that ould have attracted a
death sentence. 5hilst statistically all this is true. it
does not tell one ho society has changed over nearly 6,
years. It may ell be that the murder rate ould be the
same today if e had retained and continued to use the
death penalty. It is impossible to say that only this one
factor affects the murder rate. -asier divorce has greatly
reduced the number of domestic murders. unavailability
victims ho ould
have previously died from their in/uries. Careful analysis of
the situation in Britain beteen *8,, and the outbrea(
of the second 5orld 5ar in *838 seems to point to the death
penalty being a strong deterrent to hat one might
call criminal murders. i.e those committed in the furtherance
of theft. but a very poor deterrent to domestic
and against capitalpunishrnentmht
Arguments for and against capital punishment
Page ) of II
in the heat
. So here
rob a ban(
and to do
s and murders is
infinitesimally small. Jf the *,88 e9ecutions
carried out in the hole of the BSA from *811 to
the end of 2,,1.
Te9as accounts for 6,A or 31K.
Interestingly. the murder rate in the BS. dropped
from 26.+A2 in *883 to *7.2,8 in *881. the loest
for years ?a
2AK reduction@ - during a period of increased use of
the death penalty. 3** ?A2K@ of the +,, e9ecutions
been carried out in this period. The number of
murders in 2,,3 as about *+.A,,.
America still had + times as many murders per head of
population as did Britain in *881 hilst Singapore had
times feer murders per head of population than Britain.
Io can one account for this? There are obvious
differences beteen the 3 countries although all are
modern and prosperous.
It is dangerously simplistic to say that the rise in
e9ecutions is the only factor in the reduction of
America. There has been a general trend to a more
punitive society. ?e.g. the 4three stri(es and your out4
over this period and cities such as Le Mor( claim
great success in reducing crime rates through the use
tolerance4 policing policies. But otherise. there has
been political and economic stability over the period
obvious social changes. Improvements in medical
techniCues have also saved many potential deaths.
recent academic studies in the BSA have shon that
capital punishment is a deterrent there. 0or details of
http )NN .cilf .orgNdeathpenaltyN$&$eterrence.htm
As stated above. Te9as carries out far more e9ecutions
than any other American state ?beteen *872 and
e9ecuted 6,6 men and2 omen@ and there is no
clear evidence of a deterrent effect. %y friend !ob
?author of Before the Leedles ebsite@ has done an
analysis of the situation using official 0BI homicide
Beteen *87, and 2,,,. there ere 6*.173 murders
In *87, alone. 2.382 people died by homicide. giving it a
murder rate of *A.77 for every *,,.,,, of the population.
?The BS. average murder rate in *87, as *,.22. falling
to +.+* per roo*ooo by the year 2,,,. Jver the same
period. Te9as had a population increase of 32K. up
A.A.7*.88* from *6.*A8.72.8"to-2,.7+*.72,. There ere
*.237 murders in 2,,, giving it a rate of +.86. /ust
slightly higher than the national rate hich had dropped
+.+*N*,,.,,, In the base year ?*87,@. there as one
murder for every +.826 Te9ans. By the year 2,,,. this
fallen to one murder for every *A.763 people or 3+.2K of
the *87, value. If the *87, murder rate had been
alloed to maintain. there ould have been. by
interpolation. a total of A*.1+* murders. Jn this basis.
people are not dead today ho ould have potentially
been homicide victims. representing 17 lives saved for
one of the 2+A e9ecutions. The overall B.S. murder rate
declined by +6K during the period. Therefore. to
a reasonable estimate of actual lives saved. e must
multiply *8.8A7 by ,.+6 giving a more realistic figure of
*,.173 lives saved or 62 lives per e9ecution. -ven if this
estimate as off by a factor of *, ?hich is highly
.. unli(ely@. there ould still be over *.,,, innocent
lives saved or 6 lives per e9ecution. Jne can see a
drop in the
ng rate of
precisely hat ill happen to them if they are
convicted of murder or drug traffic(ing - is this
embedded into the sub-consciousness of most of its
people. acting as an effective deterrent?
In *88+. Singapore hanged an unusually large
number of 1 murderers ith 6 in *88A. 3 in *881 and
only one in
*887 rising to A in *888 ?3 for the same murder@.
Singapore ta(es an eCually hard line on all other
forms of crime
ith stiff on the spot fines for trivial offences such as
dropping litter and cheing gum in the street. caning
males beteen *7 and +, for a ide variety of
offences. and rigorous imprisonment for all serious
Arguments against the death penalty.
There are a number of incontrovertible arguments
against the death penalty.
The most important one is the virtual certainty that
genuinely innocent people ill be e9ecuted and that
there is no
possible ay of compensating them for this
miscarriage of /ustice. There is also another significant
but much less
cnts for and against capital
Arguments for and against capital punishment
Page 4 of II +
the s(ill of
ter. It is
ter. Iave a
of < a m e s
Thomp s on
is the hell
through in the time leading up to and during the
e9ecution and hich ill often cause them serious
years afterards. It is often very difficult for people to
come to terms ith the fact that their loved one could
guilty of a serious crime and no doubt even more
difficult to come to terms ith their death in this form.
strongly you may support capital punishment. to
rongs de not ma(e one right. Jne cannot and
should not deny
the suffering of the victim's family in a murder case
but the suffering of the murderer's family is surely
There must alays be the concern that the state can
administer the death penalty /ustly. most countries
very poor record on this. In America. a prisoner canoe
on death ro for many years ?on average ** years
figureG@ aaiting the outcome of numerous appeals
and their chances of escaping e9ecution are better if
ealthy andNor hite rather than poor andNor blac(
irrespective of the actual crimes they have committed
may have been largely forgotten by the time the final
decision is ta(en. Although racism is claimed in the
administration of the death penalty in America)
statistics sho that hite prisoners are more liable to
to death on conviction for first degree murder and are also
less li(ely to have their sentences commuted than ..
blac( defendants. )"
It must be remembered that criminals are real
people too ho have life and ith it the capacity to
feel pain. fear
and the loss of their loved ones. and all the other
emotions that the rest of us are capable of feeling. It
is easier to
put this thought on one side hen discussing the
most aful multiple murderers but less so hen
an *7 year old girl convicted of drug traffic(ing.
?Singapore hanged to Cirlsfor this crime in *88+
ho ere both
only *7 at the time of their offences and China shot
an *7 year old girl for the same offence in *887.@
There is no such thing as a humane method of
putting a person to death irrespective of hat the
State may claim
?see later@. -very form of e9ecution causes the
prisoner suffering. some methods perhaps cause
less than others.
but be in no doubt-that being e9ecuted is a terlify)ng
and Cruesomeo.oeal for rue criminal. 5hat is also
overloo(ed is the e9treme mental torture thatthe
criminal suffers in the time lea-iin"-up to the
ould you feel (noing that you ere CoinC-todie
tomorro morning at 7.,, a.rn.?
There may be a brutalising effect upon society by
carrying out e9ecutions - this as apparent in this
the *1th and *7th centuries hen people turned out
to en/oy the spectacle of public hanging. They still do
those countries here e9ecutions are carried out
irltpublic. It is hard to prove this one ay or the other
stop and loo( at car crashes but it doesn't ma(e them
go and have an accident to see hat it is li(e. It
seem that there is a natural voyeurism in most
The death penalty is the bluntest of 4blunt instruments.4 it
removes the individual's humanity and ith it any'
chance of rehabilitation and their giving something bac( to
society. In the
case of the
this may b.
the case of less
rt for such a move !eintroduction of something
been abolished is alays much more difficult
than introducing something entirely ne.
Successive free votes on the issue in the Iouse of
Commons during the *87,'s failed to get anyhere
ma/ority for restoration. &olitically it ould be
impossible no. given our membership of the -B
commitment to -uropean Convention on Iuman
!ights. both of hich are totally against capital
-B contains no member states that practice it and
ill not allo retentionist states to /oin. The present
government is implacably opposed to capital
punishment and has removed it from the statute
boo( for the fe
remaining offences for hich it as still theoretically
alloed The Conservative party seems to be split on
issue. but the official party line is against
reintroduction. The Liberal $emocrats are firmly
against. There is no
doubt that capital punishment is a very emotive
issue but there is a strong anti-death penalty lobby
in this country
ho ould put every obstacle in the ay of its
return should it ever become li(ely.
There is concern at the number of convictions that are
being declared unsafe by the Courts. particularly for the
s for and against capital
Arguments for and against capital punishment Page - of 11
ed up ith escalating levels 'of crime andhat
they see in. most cases. as derisory
punishments that they ill support anything that
appears li(ely to reduce crime and redress the
balance? Jr do
they see the return of capital punishment as a
return to barbarity?
Should capital punishment be re-introduced in
There are very real issues of human rights that ill
effect us all if it ere to be reintroduced.
5ill the government introduce las that are /ust and
contain sufficient safeguards and ill the /udiciary
5e are all potentially capable of murder ?a lot of
domestic murders. here one partner murders the
other during a
ro. are first time crimes@ and. therefore. e must
each consider hether e and our loved ones are
more at ris(
of being murdered or being e9ecuted for committing
5e must also consider hat the li(elihood is of
innocent people being e9ecuted - it is inevitable that
it ill happen
sooner or later.
Can the police. the courts. and the system
generally be trusted to get things right on every
occasion? They never
.'H'. have been able to previously.
5ill /uries be illing to convict in capital cases?
5ould you li(e to have to ma(e the decision as
to hether the
person in the doc( should live or die?
5ill the government really be illing to carry out
death sentences or ill they find every e9cuse for
not doing so.
thus returning to the in/ustices of earlier
5ill e9ecutions really prove to be the deterrent that
the supporters of capital punishment e9pect them to
is a very important point as it is alays put forard
by the pro-capital punishment lobby as the principal
from reintroduction. It is unli(ely the very orst
murderers ould be deterred because they are
psychopaths or of such dubious sanity that they art-
incapable of rational.behaviour ?sometimes ta(ing
lives immediately after the crime. as in the
Iungerford -and-$unbtane massacres@ Certain
criminals. e.C. drug
traffic(ers. may be deterred because they have
.a.clear option ith defined ris(s but ould the
person ho has a
violent argument ith their partner give a second
thought to hat ill happen to them hen in the
heat of the
moment they pic( up the carvinC (nife?
It is unli(ely that a handful of e9ecutions a. year ill
have any real deterrent effect particularly on the
society ould most li(e to be deterred. e.C. serial
(illers. multiple rapists and drugs barons. Met these
criminals are the least li(ely to be e9ecuted. the
serial (illers ill be found insane and the drug
barons ill use any
means to avoid conviction. e.C. intimidation of
itnesses. So e go bac( to the .situation here
murderers can be e9ecuted. Thus a modern day
!uth -llis might also hang because she as sane.
Beverley Allitt. ho murdered 6 small children.
ould be reprieved because she has %unchausen's
&ro9y or so she and certain psychiatrists claim.'
pulsory euthanasia rather
than as a punishment or should e e9ecute all
murderers irrespective of the degree of guilt purely
as a retributive
punishment for ta(ing another person's life and in
the hope of deterring others?
5hat about crimes such as violent rape. terrorism
and drug traffic(ingP are these as bad as murder?
e punish such offences?
Should e9ecutions be carried out in such a ay
as to punish the criminal and have ma9imum
deterrent effect on
the rest of us. ?eg. televised hangings@. 5ould
this be a deterrent or merely become a morbid
sho for the
Jr should they be little more than a form of
euthanasia carried out in such a ay as to remove
from the criminal all
physical and as much emotional suffering as
$oes it ma(e any sense to imprison someone for
the rest of their life or is it really more cruel than
particularly if they are young?
If e do not (eep them in prison for life. ill
they come out only to commit other dreadful
crimes? A small but
significant number do.
5hat is the cost to society of (eeping people in
prison? ?Q1,,.,, per ee( at present for an
ents for and against capital
Arguments for and against capital punis$ent
hich is around Q++,.,,, for a typical life sentence for murder ith a minimum tariff of *+ years@.
Page . of 11
hare your thoughts ith me send me an email ?&lease include your name and age@
If the general conclusion is that capital punishment is desirable. then the first step toard restoration is for the
Oovernment to present a fully thought out set of proposals that can be put to the people in a referendum
precisely hat offences should carry the death penalty. ho it should be carried out. etc.. and hat effect on
is e9pected to follo from reintroduction.
If such a referendum produced a clear yes vote. the Oovernment ould have a genuine mandate to proceed
and could claim the support of the people. Brns substantially reducing the influence of the anti-capital
lobby. There should be another referendum about - years later so that the effects of reintroduction could be
revieed and voted on again. !eferenda have the advantage of involving the public in the decision ma(ing
process and raising aareness through the media of the issues for and against the proposed changes.
5hat are the realistic alternatives to the death penalty?
PAny punishment must be fair. /ust. adeCuate and most of all. .""forceable. Society still vies murder as a.44
particularly heinous crime hich should be met ith the most severe punishment. 5hole life imprisonment could
fit- . .@@
the bill for the orst murders ith suitable gradations for less aful murders. Some 66 people are serving hole r
life tariffs in the BE. -
I am personally against the mandatory life sentence for murder as it fails. in my vie. to distinguish beteen
dreadful crimes and those crimes hich. hilst still homicide. are much more understandable to the rest of
Therefore. it is clearly necessary to give /uries the option of finding the prisoner guilty but in a loer degree of
murder. and to give /udges the ability to pass sensible. determinate sentences based upon the facts of the
as presented to the court. '
Imprisonment. hilst e9pensive and largely pointless. e9cept as means of removing criminals from society
-giveLl-period."+-at least enforceable upon anyone ho commits murder ?over the age of *, years.
appears to many people to-be a soft option and this perception needs to be corrected.
In modern times. e repeatedly see murderers being able to 4get off' on the grounds of diminished
and their alleged psychiatric disorders or by using devices such as plea bargaining. This tends to remove
faith in /ustice hich is very dangerous.
Are there any other real. socially acceptable. options for dealing ith murderers? Jne possible solution ?that
ould enrage the civil liberties groups@ ould be to have everyone's $LA profile data-based at birth ?not beyond
.. " ==
the it of modern computer systems@. thus ma(ing detection of many murders and se9 crimes much easier. If
as done and generally accepted as the main plan( of evidence agamst an accused person and a SBitable.
determinate sentence of imprisonment passed. involvinC a sensible regime combining both punishment and
treatment. it ould I am sure. considerably reduce the incidence of the most serious and most feared
reason for this is that for most people. being caught is a far greater deterrent than some possible. probably
misunderstood punishment. e.g. 4life imprisonment.4 Surely this has to be better than the arbitrary ta(ing of
lives of a tiny minority of offenders ?as happens in most countries that retain the death penalty@ ith all the
unanted side effects that this has on their families and on the rest of society. It is clear that certainty of being
caught is a very good deterrent - /ust loo( at ho people observe speed limits hen they see signs for speed
cameras and yet brea( the speed limit as soon as the ris( is passed.
4Life ithout parole4 versus the death penalty.
%any opponents of capital punishment put forard life in prison ithout parole as a viable alternative to
for the orst offenders. and surveys in America have shon that life ithout parole ?L5J&@ en/oys
support amongst those ho ould otherise favour the death penalty
Ioever. there are drabac(s to this)
It is argued by some that L5J& is in fact a far more cruel punishment that death. This proposition as put
forard in a parliamentary debate by the philosopher <ohn Stuart %ill in the *8th century. It is interesting to
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Arguments for and against capital punishment
Page " of 11
that no less
in 2,,1 for
the right to be
L5J& as a
died a little
every day. In
the BSA. as
und e r *7 at
the time they
as BS la no
is the point of
a person up
to the day
they die and
onder if it is
indeed a far
bid - they
Ioever good the security of a prison. someone ill
alays try to escape and occasionally ill be
you have endless time to plan an escape and
everything to gain from doing so. it is a very strong
5e have no guarantee that future governments ill not
release offenders. ho ere imprisoned years
on the recommendations of various professional 4do-
gooders4 ho are against any punishment in the first
Tenty or thirty years on it is very difficult to remember
the afulness of an individual's crime and easy to claim
that they have reformed.
%yra Iindley is a prime e9ample of this phenomenon -
hilst I am illing to believe that she changed as a
during her 31 years in prison and probably did not
present any serious ris( of re-offending. one has
guarantee of this and it does not obviate her
responsibility-for her crimes. 0ortunately. she died of
before she could obtain the parole hich I am sure
she ould have eventually been granted.
The Lumbers Oame 4death versus deterrence4.
If e are. hoever. really serious in our desire to
reduce crime through harsher punishments alone. e
prepared to e9ecute every criminal ho commits a
capital crime irrespective of their se9. age ?above the
minimum@ alleged mental state or bac(ground.
$efences to capital charges must be limited by statute
hich are reasonable. Appeals must be similarly limited
and there can be no reprieves 5e must carry out
e9ecutions ithout delay and ith sufficient publicity to
get the message across to other similarly minded
This is similar to the situation hich obtains in China
and ould. if applied in Britain. undoubtedly lead to a
number of e9ecutions to begin ith until the message
got through. I ould estimate at least 2.,,, or so in the
year if it ere applied for murder. aggravated rape
anddruC traffic(ing. This amounts to more than "
every day of the year %onday through.0<iaa y .P"PP
Are e. as a modern estern society. illing to do this
or ould e shy aay from it and return to /ust carrying
the occasional e9ecution to sho that e still can
ithout any regard for natural /ustice? These events ill
sei>ed upon by the media and turned into a morbid
soap opera en/oyed by a ?large?@ proportion of the
?Lote the popularity in the American media of capital
murder trials there.@ It is doubtful hether e9ecutions
out on this basis ill deter others from committing
0or capital punishment to really reduce crime.
everyone of us must realise that e ill
personally and ithout
doubt be put to death if e commit particular
crimes and that there can be absolutely no hope
Jne onders if as many people ould be illing to
vote for this scenario in a referendum hen they
full conseCuences of their action.
I have no doubt that if e ere to declare ar on
criminals in this fashion. e ould see a rapid decline
crime but at hat cost in human terms? There ill be' a
lot of innocent victims - principally the families of those
as e are
@ evil or
issue as it
usual. as a
this issue -
there is no
us do not
be let off,
y for their
ne9t couple of decades allo us to predict those
are prone to committing violent and murderous crimes
and so prevent them before they happen?
It ould seem that hilst legally and technically 4sane4
many criminals are in some ay abnormal and their
thought processes are not li(e those of the rest of us
!uth -llis as. in my view, a perfect case in point. She
at a time hen the death penalty as mandatory for
murder and as (non to be in favour of it herself.
to small children and yet neither factor stopped her
committing a murder hich she made no attempt to
from or deny responsibility for. and for hich she (ne
that she ould probably be hanged 5e can only
nts for and against capital
Arguments for and against capital punislunent Page # of II
rly in the
d her in
her to be
g to their
. and I
ed her -
4 0or a
h e re .
about the mental state of condemned
prisoners and are illing to e9ecute them as the
case of the child (iller. 5estley Alan $odd. ho as
abnormal indeed. There are many other cases to
choose from here the defendant's deeds are not
those of a
normal person. The typical psychopath is often a
person of above average intelligence but is
and ill continue to present a severe ris( to society.
5ill e ever find an anser to the 4mad or bad4
Cuestion and be able to find effective treatment for
those ho turn
out to be 4mad?4 Should e orry about the alleged
mental state of our orst criminals? These are the
ho are least li(ely to benefit from imprisonment or
care in institutions ?or orse still the community@ and
li(ely to re-offend. It could. therefore. be argued that
(illing these people ould be a very good thing.
Capital punishment and the media.
Three hundred years ago there as no media.
Lespapers first started in -ngland around *12+ and
. e9pensive and of very limited circulation. In any case fe
people could read at that time. So public e9ecutions
ere vital to sho that /ustice had been done and provide
a deterrent to others. In particularly heinous cases of
murder the e9ecution could be carried out near the scene
of the crime so that the local people could see the
murderer punished. or the criminal could be gibbeted
near the scene to remind people of the punishment. By
*7,, nespapers ere more idespread and public
e9ecution as abolished in -ngland. Scotland and 5ales
*7A7. !eporters ere still alloed to itness some
e9ecutions for some years afterards. but by the 2,th
century. typically nespapers ould merely state that so
and so as e9ecuted yesterday for the murder of ... at
such and such prison. Lo details of the e9ecution
ere made available and so the story ould be to
unless there as some special feature such asa
protest outside the prison. !adio and later television
ould also carry a similar brief report.
In the BSA reporters are alays permitted to attend
e9ecutions and they receive a lot of coverage at
Ioever the media's attitude to e9ecutions varies
idely depending on the aCe.and se9 of the criminal.
the type of
crime and method of e9ecution
%iddle aged men being e9ecuted by lethal in/ection
in say Te9as for 4ordinary4 murders hardly rate a
the press of other states. noadays and do not get
a mention in the B.E. media at all. But. a oman
double murder and being in/ected on the same
gurney gets tremendous orldide media attention
at all levels
?Earla 0a y e Tuc(er @. -Cually. a man being hanged
in 5ashington or $elaare or shot by a Btah firing
ma(es international nes ?5estley Allan $odd. Billy
Bailey and <ohn Taylor@. And yet ?non hite@ omen
hanged in <ordan and Singapore. the large number
of people publicly beheaded in Saudi Arabia and
omen e9ecuted by the hundred in China ma(e
very little nes. Ioever. hen a hite oman is
Africa. ?%ariette Bosch in Botsa. na@ this is considered
nesorthy by the British press. The BE broadsheets
large articles ith photos of her. H4"rRS
5hy is this? Is it a form of racism or do e not care if the
-astern or 0ar
is ho I
very little public interest %ost
Singaporeans. hoever. firmly support the
government hard line on crime and
$uring the late 1,'s and early 7,'s hen e9ecutions
ere rare in America. every e9ecution by hatever
attracted a great deal of media interest and yet no
they are more freCuent ?normally averaging over
ee(@. the authorities seem to have difficulty in
finding sufficient official and media itnesses. They
also used to
attract pro and anti-capital punishment protesters in
large numbers. but these seem to have dindled
don to /ust
a fe in most cases.
I tend to thin( that if e9ecutions ere televised.
they ould soon reach the same level of dis-
interest amongst the
general public unless it fitted into a 4special
category.4 ie. a first by this or that method or a
In Euait criminals have been hanged in the yard
of Layef &alace and once the prisoners are
press and the public are alloed in to vie the
hanging bodies &hotography is also alloed and
the e9ecutions appear in the Euaiti media Jne
onders hat the deterrent effect of this. Iave a
loo( at the
for and against capital
Arguments for and against capital punishment
article on Eu a it to learn more.
Page 9 of l l
the not very interesting criminals ho are
e9ecuted by lethal in/ection?
Lethal in/ection. as my on survey has shon. is
perceived by most respondents as the least cruel
probably because it is the least gruesome method.
The less the public interest. the easier the process
a state of affairs that suits governments of many
countries and states in America very ell. .
&robably the ma/ority of people don't much care
either ay and ould rather atch footballT They
support capital punishment but do not ish to be
or feel involved.
I onder if in another hundred years e ill. as a
orld still have capital punishment at all or for that
prisons. or hether e ill have evolved
technological means of detecting and correcting
before they can actually commit any crime. It seems
to me that e must first find this technology and then
public opinion aay from its present obsession ith
punishment by demonstrating that the ne methods
pointing out the futility and aste of present penal
methods. especially imprisonment and e9ecution.
&unishment ill remain popular ith the general
public ?and therefore politicians@ as long as there are
-. alternatives and as long as crime continues its
presentine9orable rise. Logically. hoever.
punishment ?of any.
sort@ cannot be the future - e must progress
and therefore e ill.
Bntil this utopian point is reached. hich I believe it
ultimately ill be. I thin( that e ill see the use of
penalty continuing and its reintroduction in
countries that had previously abolished it. %ost of
countries are trying to get it re-introduced.
It is clear that in strict penal societies such as
Singapore. that the crime rate is much loer than in
penal societies such as Britain. It is. therefore.
logical to assume that Singaporean style policies
are li(ely to be
adopted by more countries as their crime rates
reach' unacceptable proportions.
I do not.believe that the.ma/orityof people ho support
capital punishment or other.severe punishments. do
sadistic.reasons but rather out of a feeling of
desperationthat they and their families are being
the rising tide of crime hich they perceive the
government is doing too little to protect them from I
ould. in the long term. be sufficient support for non-
penal methods of dealing ith criminals if these ere
to be effective.
A particular danger in our society is that e
continue to do little or nothing effective about
offenders. If the death penalty ere re introduced.
e may be consigning many of these to their death
at the age
of *7. having never previously given them any
discipline hatsoever. Surely e9ecution should not
be both the first
and last taste of discipline a person gets and yet
as e allo so many youngsters to run ild and
eorgia in *88+. is a perfect e9ample of
this phenomenon. D
5e should start by introducing stricter discipline
from 4the bottom up.4 i.e start ith unruly children
at school and
on the streets and progress through young thugs
and older thugs before e thin( about restoring
punishment. This ay. e might bring up a
generation or to of disciplined people ho might
not need the threat
of e9ecution to deter them from committing the
most serious crimes.
It is noticeable that hilst Singapore retains and
uses the death penalty. it also has severe
punishments for all
other offences. including caning for many
offences committed by young men ho are
usually the most crime
prone group. Thus. Singapore provides discipline
at all levels in its society and has the sort of
crime figures that
most countries can only dream of.
&ain and suffering - is the death penalty a cruel and
The -ighth Amendment to the American
Constitution prohibits the imposition of 4cruel and
and the 4infliction of unnecessary pain in the
e9ecution of the death sentence4. 5hilst this ould
it never intended this amendment to guarantee a
pain free death. 5hen the Constitution as ritten
hanging as specified and at the time this meant
the short or no drop method as the concept of a
hadn't been invented. In the Supreme Court case of
!ees v Ba>e in 2,,1. !alph Ba>e challenged the
ents for and against capital
Arguments for and against capital punislunent
Page l0af II &
procedure in the
state of Eentuc(y
hich as found
because it did
the brain of
as they are
to death to
if any. pain
All e can
do is to
there is no
then it is
died a pain
ment of the
normally the first chemical in/ected in the
BS e conclude the same.
It is eCually clear that hen any form of e9ecution is
bungled the prisoner often e9hibits signs of great
The time ta(en in the actual preparations prior to
the e9ecution. ?e.C. insertion of the catheters or
the shaving of
the head and legs for electrocution@. must also
cause great emotional suffering hich again may
far outeigh the
physical pain of the actual moment of death hich
at least has an end. !emember that in 2,th
century Britain. it
too( typically around *+ seconds to carry out a
hanging. hereas it can ta(e 2, to 6+ minutes
hen ?//l goes ell
to carry out a lethal in/ection. It sometimes ta(es
much longer hen a vein cannot be found.
Ianging may cause a
degree of physical pain. but surely being e9ecuted
over a period of half an hour or more must cause
5e "aveloo(ed at the pain "aused by e9ec"tion b"t
hat ofthe "uffering? . ?@@ .
Jne Issue rarely addressed IS the length of time
prisoners spend In the condemned cell or on death
ro In tiny ?"
cells in virtual solitary confinement prior to e9ecution
and the uncertainty of eventual e9ecution as various
are granted and then overturned ?particularly in America.
here it is an average of over *2 years-in 2,,A. the last
year for hich statistics are available but can sometimes
be over tenty years. as is the case in California@.
In Britain hen e had the death penalty. three
clear Sundays had to elapse beteen sentence
although this period could increase somehat if
the prisoner appealed. In the BS the person ill
e9ecution date set often three months in advance
and have to deal ith the approach of it. In <apan
informed ithin the last hour or so of their life so
that they.never (no hen they ill be ta(ente-the
my vie. the mental anguish caused by this part of
the process is a far greater cause of suffering both
to them and
their families than that caused by the physical pain
produced by the .. eventual e9ecution. This vie
as shared by
the British &rivy Council hich is still the final
appeal body for many of the Caribbean countries
and ho ruled that
if e9ecutions had not.been carried out ithin five
years.aftec.the.death sentence then the person
Can capital punishment ever be 4humane4?
I have never personally believed that any form of
death. let alone e9ecution. is either instant or
painless. so hich
method of capital punishment should a modern
4civilised4 society use?
Should our orst criminals be given a
completely p4ainless death even if the
technology e9ists to provide one. or
should a degree of physical suffering be part of
5hatever method is selected should have some deterrent
value hilst not causing a deliberately slo or .. : ..
agonising death. T
British style. b.8.TU8ing is an e9tremely Cuic(
process that.is designed to cause instant and
and also benefits from reCuiring simple and
thus Cuic( preparation of the prisoner. It seems
to have substantial
it. but it is
it if the
is to die a
g on the
The ili'$c:12$mh$3 seems to possess no
obvious advantage as the eCuipment is
e9pensive to buy and maintain.
the preparations are lengthy. adding to the
prisoner's agonies. and it alays causes a slo
and cruel death It is
also dangerous to the staff involved .
4l$c11tI5611',l35n can cause a Cuic( death hen
all goes ell. but seems to have a greater
number of technical
problems than any other method. often ith
the most gruesome conseCuences ?This may
in part be due to the
ts for and against capital
Arguments for and against capital punislunent
age of the eCuipment - in most case 1,-8, years oldT@
Page 11 of 11
Shoot ing by
bullet in the
bac( of the
sCuad in that
is li(ely to
to bleed to
It is easy to
rest of one's
life in prison
so much less
cruel to the
prisoner or is
it merely a
ess for the
on the hyperlin(s above.
At the end of the debate. e ould seem to be left ith
*@ Lot to have the death penalty and the genuine
problems it causes and continue to accept the
levels of murder and other serious crimes that e
2@ !eintroduce capital punishment for /ust the 4orst4
murderers hich ould at least be some retribution for
terrible crimes they have committed and ould
permanently incapacitate them. It ould also save a
of money each year hich could. perhaps. be spent on
the more genuinely needy This option is unli(ely to
overall crime levels.
3@ !eintroduce the death penalty in the really strict
format outlined above and see a corresponding drop in
crime hilst accepting that there ill be a lot of human
misery caused to the innocent families of criminals and
there ill be the occasional. if inevitable. mista(es.
the choice is
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