Five good reasons why the death penalty should not be reinstated

If the death penalty was brought back, someone innocent would inevitably be killed at some point

Right-wing blogger Guido Fawkes (Paul Staines) is pushing a Number 10 e-petition to reinstate the death penalty. His campaign has already gained widespread support, from Murdoch newspaper The Sun to Tory MP Philip Davies (from ‘let the disabled be exploited at below the minimum wage’ and ‘can’t we bring back blacking up’ fame). Mr Davies said:

“It’s something where once again the public are a long way ahead of the politicians. I’d go further and restore it for all murderers.”

However, a quick google search  and look through the ‘Innocent‘  database finds that murder charges are fairly regularly overturned in the British Courts. People whose original conviction for murder that have been quashed include:

Andrew Adams who was convicted of murdering science teacher Jack Royal in 1990. Members of the jury later come forward to say they had considered evidence not put before the court, the police had been in contact with witnesses during the trial, and that verdicts of not guilty were returned on others involved in the case, inconsistent with Adams’ guilty verdict 

Soldier Andrew Evans, who was convicted of the murder of  14-year-old Judith Roberts on the basis of a dream he experienced

Sean Hodgson, who was convicted of the murder of bar worker Theresa de Simone in 1979, and served 27 years despite David Lace confessing to the murder in 1983 

Josephine Smith, whose conviction of murder for her husband was changed  to manslaughter, after it was established he had repeatedly beat her and subject her to sexual abuse. Smith had originally pleaded guilty to manslaughter

Tony Martin, whose conviction of murder was reduced to manslaughter for shooting burglars who entered his home, which he had done in a  ‘blind panic’

And there are dozens more. It seems odd that a libertarian such as Staines thinks that the state is incompetent to do almost anything other than decide who to kill. Under Davies’s policy, all these people would have now been killed by the state in cold blood.

Under Staines’s plan (cop-killers and child murderers would be liable for the death penalty), Andrew Evans would now have been killed.

So what price a life? Is it right that some innocent people are killed so that others receive thier comeuppance? If, as MP Priti Patel believes, deterence did work (which would imply murderers rationally weigh out risks and benefits to actions, and that a life sentence is seen as a fair risk), how many is it OK to kill to ensure that murderers are put off?

All this ‘ends justifies the means’ thinking and trading of lives feels bizarrely stalinist for conservatives and libertarians. If the death penalty is brought back, it is only a matter of time until someone is innocent is killed – an odd outcome to a campaign based on abhorrence of murder.

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.