“Last year I was against the reintroduction of hanging. This January my son was forcibly taken from a park near our home where he was playing with some of his friends. His unclothed body was found three days later. He was six. Now I would be happy to hang the murderer myself. No one can understand the grief the victim`s family has to bear. No one really cares. Everyone wants to protect the killer, my son was six, who protected him?”
Each year an unbelievably vast amount of acts of indecency are committed against minors in the United Kingdom. In 1995 there were 260,300 reported cases of attempted rape or completed rapes of children under the age of 12. Convicted rapists report that two-thirds of their victims were under 18 and 58% of those said their victims were 12 or under. This data is in accordance to the Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics report.
This research paper aims to discuss the facts and arguments as to whether capital punishment is a suitable means in bringing a satisfactory amount of justice to those involved.
Capital punishment refers to legally putting to death individuals whom have committed a capital offence; a crime punishable by death. Though in the past a person could be hung for a wide range of offences, it is generally put into progress once a person has been found guilty of murder or treason.
The abolition of the death penalty in the United Kingdom took place in November 1965 by the Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act 1965. Prior to this however, the law was governed by the Homicide Act 1957, creating the two murder categories known as Capital and Non-Capital, Capital only carrying the death penalty.
A recent opinion poll, in which 40,000 readers of the “Daily Star” took part, indicated that approximately 83.6% of participants wanted the return of capital punishment as chastisement for murder. This source was taken from the “Tebbit Campaign For Law And Order”.
In reading the latter mentioned statement of an upset and angry parent, my initial reaction is that of disgust towards this surely heartless criminal and utmost sympathy toward the grieving parent. Emotion plays a leading and legitimate role in the persuasion of thinking that after committing such a terrible inexcusable crime is it not inevitable that this person be put to death?
It has not yet been verified that rehabilitation programs have been successful in “treating” sex offenders and paedophiles alike and stopped them from re-offending. Thus incarcerating these outcasts from society and segregating them amongst others of a similar category is done for our own safety. However, being amongst their own surely fuels their imagination and gives the incentive to when released perpetrate once again. 8/10 rapists are released prior to trial and 61% of violent sex offenders have a prior record. By releasing those found guilty, we are risking the safety of innocent children. The precious lives of the next generation need to be protected and cannot be gambled with.
Often the offender may take months or a possibility of years before striking the chosen victim. In 90% of all the rapes of children under 12 years, the individual knew the victim. In this case, without these vicious criminals being permanently rid of or discouraged, what security do we have? Capital punishment is considered by many to be the only true answer. Whether or not capital punishment deters offenders contemplating murder, we cannot doubt it prevents the punished offender from repeating their crime.
Nevertheless, the idea that capital punishment does act as a deterrent toward murder lies on a straightforward supposition, which is as follows: fear manipulates people; most people fear death; therefore the threat of judicial sentence will manipulate people into desisting from offending.
Unfortunately this assumption and the fear of death does not govern people to such an extensive degree. If indeed it did, neither wars nor extreme sports would take place, speed limits would be obeyed and people would wear safety belts. The tobacco industry certainly would be non-existent.
If the logical instinct for self-preservation were to be cited as a reason for capital punishment influencing, then you have to disregard most of history as well as current human behaviour. The “deterrence theory” also does not account for the most striking homicidal statistic which is as follows: of all homicide forms, the most common would entail the death of the perpetrator: suicide. People kill themselves more often than they murder anyone else: friend, wives, business associates. The majority of statistical evidence about murder rates backs this up.
To state the very least, it cannot be proven that capital punishment unquestionably prevents murder, so a policy that is placed on the assumption it does, cannot reasonably be placed. Beginning with one of the simplest statistics, if capital punishment reliably prohibited murder then countries that have not yet seen the abolition of capital punishment, should have a generally lower murder rate than countries without.
It is believed by many critics that a major reason for the failure of capital punishment acting as a deterrent is because most murderers act in a state of desperation, unable to think rationally about the related consequences. If this is the matter then logically there is no deterrent towards murder.
In my opinion acts committed against children are undoubtedly the worst and deserve the harshest possible punishment. Children are certainly the most defenceless and vulnerable as well as the most innocent therefore it is argued that there is no applicable motive for harming them.
However, sexual drive can be a powerful urge and from a paedophiles point of view, this impulse may not be helped. It has often been noted that society`s bullies were bullied whilst juveniles and because of this grow to begin a trend. This pattern may also be recognised in sex offenders where the original guilty was not caught and punished. Grief, hurt, fear and a mixture of other emotions may drive the otherwise innocent, into doing what was done to them, to others.
It is also noted that expectant women or new mothers cannot rightly be charged of certain crimes due to extreme hormonal conditions, therefore can the case of criminal who is ill mentally and whom cannot control their actions in a fit state of mind, not be likened to this?
Regarding the above, how can it be determined whether the offender is mentally ill or otherwise? With this comes the risk of punishing what may be described as the wrongly accused. One of the most compelling arguments against capital punishment is the obtrusive danger of executing an innocent being; death is irreversible.
Several years after a sentence, it may be discovered that false evidence was given or that the judges ruling was faulty. It may be that a subsequent person confesses to the crime. If the newly found innocent was still in the process of life imprisonment, that person may be released with compensation for the miscarriage of justice. However, if the unfortunate individual was previously put to death, there can be no final justice. Even with the safeguards, many of the not guilty are still convicted and questionable executions still take place. The pain of family and friends, whom honestly believed in the virtue of their relation from the beginning, is unimaginable.
Another significant danger may occur here. The convicted may have truly killed the victim and even plead guilty to having done so but is not in agreement that the killing was a murder. Often the only people to know truth are the accused and the deceased. Therefore it concludes to the skill of the defence and prosecution legal representatives, as to the conviction is for murder or manslaughter. It is thus greatly credible that criminals are convicted of murder when rightly should have been convicted of manslaughter. The risk of wasting years of peoples lives and vast amounts of money is large.
The overall determination as to whether capital punishment has a greater cost to other methods of justice is a much disputed over area. Money is most certainly an exhaustible commodity and many argue that as opposed to spending valuable and limited resources on the long term confinement of murderers and sex offenders, the state may very well better fund the young, the elderly and the ailing, improving the lives of citizens.
Estimates of the costs for capital punishment will inevitably vary greatly. Often the cost is not a result of frivolous appeals but rather a result of mandated safeguards, which translate into: more extensive jury procedures; a four fold in increase of the number of motions filed; a longer dual trial process; more investigators and expert testimony; more lawyers specialising in death penalty litigation and automatic mandatory appeals.
Since few defendants actually plead guilty to capital charge, virtually every death penalty trial becomes a jury trial including all of the above necessary requirements and vast expenses, funded by the taxpayers. Contrary to what the majority may believe, this has proved more expensive than a life imprisonment sentence without the opportunity of parole.
Though endless appeals and delays in carrying out punishment can prove costly, whilst true for America, the average period spent on “Death Row” in Britain during the 20th century was less than 8 years with only one appeal.
As previously mentioned, emotion plays a major position in the argument for these callous criminals being put to death. Few can really empathise and truly understand the grief the victim`s family has to bear. Many sympathise greatly, as the cruel death of an innocent and vulnerable young child is an extremely emotive situation. It is enormously easy to then conclude that capital punishment should be brought into motion.
A situation that may inescapably occur is that the offender is a relation. If so, then the feelings of the victim`s family need to be thoroughly considered. It would certainly be extremely emotionally hard for the family to come to terms with the crime committed, never minding the fact that the relative would have to by law, be killed. Though the family may want the person punished, it may not be wanted in the form of death. If this is the case, maybe it should be partly the victim`s family`s decision as to whether consent is allowed for capital punishment to take place.
An issue that is often overlooked is the terrible pain the family and friends must also endeavour before and during the execution, which will almost certainly cause serious, long-term trauma. The fact that a loved one could be guilty of such a crime is often very difficult to come to terms with and increasingly hard with their death in this form. By killing one person we are in effect destroying along with it, the lives of numerous close friends and family. Surely they have no reason for this punishment; they did not commit the crime. The suffering of the murdered victim`s family cannot and should not be denied but without doubt, the suffering of the murderer`s family is equally valid.
Hanging today is cited as medieval and barbaric and if eventually the criminal is given the death sentence then a more humane method of execution needs to be used. Some consider this to be gassing or the lethal injection. However, the issue of there being a humane method of putting a person to death, irrespective of what the state or government say, is false. All forms of death would cause the prisoner suffering to some extent, some methods to a lesser degree. There have been known cases where the lethal injection has taken up to 18 minutes to complete its job. Thus, be in no doubt that execution is a gruesome and terrifying ordeal for the offender.
By picking and choosing among the available facts we can make a compelling case for either side. However, in my opinion the evidence supporting that capital punishment does well and benefits people more then other form of justice, is very weak. The questions concerning capital punishment fall into three main areas: does capital punishment prove cost-effective, saving money? Does it strike fear into offenders, deterring crime and saving lives? Finally, the courts can make mistakes; what does capital punishment mean to an innocent person wrongly accused? Considering these points I conclude with my personal decision against capital punishment.