Saturday, 30 July 2011

Short drop and a sharp stop - The return of Capital Punishment?

Today the spectre of Capital punishment has again reared its head to public debate as Guido Fawkes submitted an e-petition for its return. Ultimately it is a moot point as the UK has signed up with other European governments to Human right protocols that ban the state execution of any citizen no matter how the heinous the crime. However the debate is one that should be had from time to time if only to remind us how we came to where we are.

So why is capital punishment a bad thing? Aren't our prisons overflowing? There are no active deterrents now to real crime such as murder and child sex offences? Wouldn't seeing a few of these felons swing from the gallows put people off?
Well its all really final isn't it? Once you've executed someone they can't come back if you've cocked up during the investigation or the trial has been miscarried. Sometimes it happens. Take Amanda Knox in the Meredith Kercher case. The Italian Police seem to have been massively incompetent, what if she turns out to be innocent because of their mistakes, it would have been awful if another innocent life had been taken. Similar things have happened in the UK as well, there was a man that was held in prison for eight years for murder and turned out to be innocent. Even now there is talk of pardoning General Jodl who was hanged at Nuremberg for Crimes against humanity!

Secondly, who has the right to take a human life? Surely if the state decides and executes someone it makes the state no better than the condemned? I know its in the Bible but it also tells us that you shouldn't eat prawns. We would be robbing someone of their freedom and people can change, do they not deserve the chance for redemption and reform? One night, when my Grandfather was a Police sergeant in Brixton a man came in very shaken and admitted to butchering his whole family in a caravan in Kent. He said he didn't even know why he did it, he just snapped. Apparently when the Kent CID went to have a look the caravan was swimming in blood. This man arguably deserved to hang for the crime but he had never done anything previous or since and showed genuine remorse.

Finally Guido's petition is to bring back the Death penalty for heinous murders of children and Police officers - wow... So a Policeman's murder is more of a loss to his family than my death to mine? That's not equality. If you were going to bring back execution for the murder of a Policeman you'd have to do it for everyone. My loss, although not a great impact to society or the world in general would upset my wife and family in the same way and don't they deserve the same amount of justice? The petition is not aimed at creating a Soviet or National Socialist style justice system with routine executions being handed out by a vengeful state that is trying to keep the civilian's in check but it still has its flaws.

Some might say there are people that are beyond redemption and impossible of reform. Take Peter Sutcliffe, Ian Brady, Ian Huntly or even Gary Glitter. These people are, in some respects, broken - a faulty wire as my Grandfather would've said. Some would even describe them as monsters, the kind of people who have done the worst acts that one human being can do to another. One serial killer, I forget his name, asked the judge to hand down the death penalty saying that he needed to be stopped and had tried himself many times but couldn't. Others such as Bundy were horrific killers who showed no remorse what so ever and no amount of psychiatric help would ever cure them. These people cannot be given freedom as their freedom WILL be used to take the freedom of life from others and the state should no longer fund their existence and that they should pay for their crimes and put out of their misery as you would a rabid dog.

Restricting execution to certain top drawer offences could be seen to be valid but what of death by dangerous driving? Could that be considered on a par as taking an axe to someone? Think about it, if you were on your mobile whilst driving and you caused a collision that ultimately killed someone you have taken a life in the same way as if you had cut them up BUT the difference is you didn't intend to do it. Where is the line? You have an angry and upset family calling for justice and you have a punishment. What if your crime would normally only carry a life sentence but the Judge decided to make an example of you or bowed to the pressure of public opinion or a media campaign? Justice would have many question marks hanging over it and the price is someones life.

There is a compelling argument in the affore mentioned cases and if execution was to be brought back for certain cases some would argue it to be a good thing but who are we to hand down death and judgement with hearts filled with vengeance? State's should also never carry the power to take the life of a citizen as justice can be affected by human error, passions and pressure from the press.

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