by Sophia Moseley
“An eye for an eye a tooth for a tooth” Exodus 21:24; from the reign of Henry I (1068-1135) until the passing of the Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act 1965 in December 1969, the punishment for certain crimes in England was death by hanging.
The five crimes were: murder, treason, espionage, arson in royal dockyards and piracy with violence.
However ‘Capital punishment’ (that derives its name from the Latin capit or caput meaning ‘head’) continues to be used in many countries. According to Amnesty International, as at December 2009 there were 58 countries that retained the death penalty.
From the day we are born most of us are subject to the rules and regulations of society. It is essential to have rules, without which there would be anarchy as seen during the August 2011 London Riots. And if you break the rules, you can expect to be punished.
However, the courts continue to issue lenient sentences partly due to the growing size of the prison population.
According to HM Prison Service data as at 9 September 2011, the prison population was 86,842 (male: 82,572 and female: 4,270) with a capacity of 88,628.
In 2007 Lord Carter recommended the creation of Titan prisons, the idea was scrapped in 2009. The coalition Government agreed to build more prisons but by January 2011, Lancaster Castle, Ashwell and Morton Hill prisons had been closed.
The public are rapidly losing confidence in our legal system. According to a MORI poll carried out by Channel 4 in July 2009, 70% of British adults questioned, think the UK should have the death penalty as the maximum penalty for at least one of twelve types of crime.
Earlier this year, Paul Staines started a campaign under the Government’s e-petition scheme and managed to get 20,717 ‘signatures’ on his petition to bring back capital punishment.
The British Crime Survey shows that in the year ending November 2009 there were 651 murders; 459 male victims and 192 female, with babies under the age of 12 months being the most ‘at risk’ age group.
Between 1995 and 2006 30 convicted killers, 25 of whom had been convicted for the second time, went on to kill again after being released.
During the two years to April 2006, criminals on probation were responsible for 121 murders, 44 cases of manslaughter, 103 rapes and 80 kidnappings.
The purpose of imposing a sentence is not only to respond to the public’s demand for justice, it also has to be a deterrent to others and the retribution has to be equitable.
With the accuracy of DNA tests and the advances in science, evidence is now reliable and sentencing secure, thus removing the danger of the wrong person being convicted.
Furthermore, with evidence to show released prisoners are likely to reoffend, is it not better for society to remove the risk by removing the criminal?
Earlier this year, Joshua Davies, 16, was found guilty of murdering school girl Rebecca Aylward. Davies was given an indefinite sentence with no parole considered until at least 14 years have been served.
Rebecca’s mother called for a return of the death penalty saying “I would welcome the return of capital punishment for the likes of Joshua Davies .... he is pure evil”
Click here to read the opposing argument, against capital punishment