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Do NOT bring back capital punishment and here’s why…

Comment 12th July 2010

Horrific crimes often generate a knee jerk reaction resulting in a call for the resurrection of capital punishment in the United Kingdom. This is not the answer to crime in Britain and here is why.

1. The death penalty is often cited as being  a deterrent to crime. This is debatable but there is no conclusive evidence for this. The Southern United States has the highest execution rate in the country and also the highest murder rate. Chicken or egg? It hardly matters.

Some research suggests that far from deterring murders, capital punishment has a brutalising effect upon society and can actually increase the number of murders per year.

2. Why should people be kept in jail for the rest of their lives at the expense of the taxpayer? Believe it or not it's actually often more expensive to execute someone than to keep them in prison for the rest of their life. It cost the state of Florida $3 million to execute serial killer Ted Bundy, it would have cost $1.5 million to keep him in prison until he was 80.

This is due to the lengthy appeals process that MUST be undertaken in order to ensure that an innocent person is not put to death. Most defendants cannot afford the team of lawyers that are required for a capital case, so these must be provided by the state. This is very costly and can go on for years, sometimes decades while the appeals play out.

It is also more expensive to keep someone on death row than in the normal prison population. Condemned prisoners must be kept under almost 24 hour guard in solitary confinement. This is also far more expensive than life in prison.

3. No justice system is faultless. It's bad enough that people have spent years in prison before being found innocent on appeal. Executing someone is final and cannot be reversed. DNA evidence is not a magic bullet and was never intended to be. It merely provides a chronological narrative of movements. For more information on this search for 'the CSI effect'.

4. Having the death penalty for a crime where the victim does not die, such as paedophilia,is counter-productive. If the penalty is the same as if they victim dies, the perpetrator has no reason not to kill the victim to escape identification.

5. Either human life is sacred or it isn't. You can't have it both ways. Once exceptions are made to human rights, it's a slippery slope.

6. Executing a murderer does not bring the victim back. Many victim's families in the United States have campaigned to save the life of their relative's killer, over their opposition to the death penalty.

Why does this matter?

Society must be careful not to revert back to our basest and most primitive instincts when confronted with horrifying crimes. The premise of 'the ends justify the means' is not palatable in a modern, progressive European state.

The United States is moving at a glacially slow rate towards abolition as is the rest of the world. Britain to reverting back to using this brutal and archaic custom would send a message to the rest of the world that the taking of human life is acceptable.

There is something particularly unsavoury about the state enacted, sanitised and judicially decreed killing of a human being.

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