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.

85 Responses to “Five good reasons why the death penalty should not be reinstated”

  1. Johann Koehler

    You’re now making the case for ‘general deterrence’ – the theory that capital punishment deters people who were considering committing a crime. There’s no evidence to support that theory. There would be even less traction for the theory in the context of people as unhinged as the killers of Baby P and Victoria Climbié (http://books.google.co.uk/books?hl=en&lr=&id=lqMZzZ7p3jIC&oi=fnd&pg=PA303&dq=deterrence+among+psychopaths&ots=mCW3X6Yuva&sig=vv1TegHZtqz8Mub5abVQdNML3uI). Your utilitarian position, namely that of the primacy of protecting the innocent, is simply not supported as strongly as you seem to think.

    Wouldn’t it make more sense for you to seek to reform the sentence of life imprisonment to reflect ‘true’ life imprisonment (as is the case in plenty of countries) before you advocate in favour of state-sponsored killing?

  2. Tom White

    Anon E Mouse: 1) you don’t appear to know what ‘deterrence’ means. If you’re interested in that debate, go and look at the figures. If we’re talking about incapacitation, then execution is obviously different from incarceration: I’m not happy if innocent people are killed by the state. Are you? 2) I don’t use the same moral judgments as criminals in judging people’s futures, and nor should our state. 3) I’m not terribly interested in what lots of people think if you shove a microphone in their faces. Lots of people can be wrong about something. A huge number of people on this planet think that God exists – I don’t see it myself.

    I don’t see that any of this is ‘bleeding heart’ either. I haven’t declared any position on length of sentence for murderers. I’m just supremely uncomfortable with state murder, and I query the *deterrent* effects of long prison sentences.

    You seem to think that the death penalty deters. Where’s your evidence?

  3. Anon E Mouse

    Tom White – The “bleeding heart” wasn’t aimed at you specifically and no one would advocate murdering innocent people.

    Agreed on point 2 but my response was against the comment from Dave Citizen…

    Your belief or not in God (why not agnostic?) is your own but my comment is that the general public aren’t having the microphone shoved in their face in a referendum.

    It seems we can have referendums on changes to the voting system, Scotland and the Welsh Assembly but not this or the Lisbon Treaty and we both know why.

    Because this country would be out of Europe and would bring back hanging and the politicians know it. Which means they are not representative of us….

    As to the deterrent effect you’ll have to give me until tomorrow – I have a train to catch fella….

  4. Anon E Mouse

    Johann & Tom – I’m going to miss that train. Try this from an anti death penalty fella: http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/ic/2007/6/10/212452.shtml?s=ic

  5. torieboy

    never mind the death penalty, get rid of the human rights act and expel the
    foreign nationals that are cluttering up the prisons ,
    you middle class chattering classes are totally out of touch with ordinary
    people

  6. Gus

    @ekklesiaComment @catholicherald @NewsFromAmnesty 5 good reasons why the death penalty should not be reinstated: http://t.co/szcVGZU :

  7. Hitchin England

    @ekklesiaComment @catholicherald @NewsFromAmnesty 5 good reasons why the death penalty should not be reinstated: http://t.co/szcVGZU :

  8. Leon Wolfson

    @4 – Yes, what a surprise, you like the concept of murder and can’t stop talking about it. There are dozens of studies showing that it, if anything, raises the rate…and two (including as one the study which was “re-written”) there which contradict that. Moreover, studies for a gun-owning society are (unsurprisingly) quite different from one where there is not (although societies with guns AND compulsory military training, well…eh, this is a sideline)

    And yes, prison works – at generating crime. Study after study shows this. But mere facts can’t deter you! Hang em high!

    This is also a typical attack on the EU. Yes, I know you want us to be firewalled from the common market, smashing our economy, and leading to large numbers of UK nationals coming back jobless for that matter. I mean, it’s not as if you are not yelling “more, more” as the economy flatlines anyway, but the misery you want to inflict on every non-rich person in this country is entirely typical of the nasty party, and nicely debunks your bleating on the issue.

    That a system generally works, and small numbers – and it IS small numbers – of antisocial and otherwise deranged personalities commit murders is something which is very hard to prevent. Indeed, you cheared as the best way (sure, it needed *revision*) to do this was switched off and deleted – contactpoint. Child Protection in this country is now in a dire state: The workers in it have been slashed, and instead of a computer database of contacts, they’re still writing letters and collecting paper files.

    This displays your true interest, as ever. And it’s not for the kids. It’s for revenge, in blood. Uncivilised, feral and dangerous.

  9. Anon E Mouse

    Leon Wolfson – Well excuse me. I’m here offering you support and the thanks I get is by you lying and smearing me. Charming Wolfster.

    For the record, on this fine blog you have said you have been shot at and twice you have been nearly bombed and “ambushed” by a marauding BNP gang.

    Can you deny that if the gunman, bombers or BNP criminals that attacked you for a SECOND time had been locked up at their first offence then you COULDN’T have been attacked if they were in a jail cell.

    That’s why prison works.

    It’s common sense Wolfy Boy if you stop and and think about it.

    By the way my partner has been a Child Protection Social worker for over 25 years on the front line (despite having a Masters she refuses management) in this country and your description of that service is bulsh*t. They have had laptops and secure USB sticks for at least 5 years and that is in an extremely poor area…

    No offence….

  10. Leon Wolfson

    Because you are not supporting me in any way, you’re on a right-wing crusade which has nothing to do with me. And indeed, you have said nothing I remotely agree with, but thanks for trying to paint me as bloody handed as you.

    And you have no concept of what ContactPoint was doing, I see, which is entirely typical of those throwing stones on the issue. Yes, of course the workers have laptops. But to get details of contacts between the child and various social workers, police and doctors, they’ve been forced back into writing letters and paper files. A slow method, which can and does miss some contacts, especially if the parents move.

    This is PRECISELY what ContactPoint was supposed to address – by having a central record of every contact without needing to send letters, and if appropriately cut down to just the children at-risk (yes, it was over-broad, which is a good argument for revising it, not scrapping it with NO replacement) it would – and was, in fact – doing a much better job.

    And yes, I’ve twice been attacked by the BNP, been near a bomb blast in London (the IRA’s last, I believe), another bomb blast in Jerusalem, and shot at over the border in Israel. Your point?

    Of course you have to twist and turn and invent and come up with excuses like “oh if they were locked up”…what? Different thugs, in incidents years apart.

    Your jail arguments are still incoherent as ever, given your utter inability to understand the difference between incapacitation and deterrence.

  11. Extradition Game

    @ekklesiaComment @catholicherald @NewsFromAmnesty 5 good reasons why the death penalty should not be reinstated: http://t.co/szcVGZU :

  12. Anon E Mouse

    Leon Wolfson – I never mentioned ContactPoint – you did. You clearly do not realise that like DNA databases and other New Labour control freakery, ContactPoint was universally hated, never worked properly and was just another excuse to spend our money unwisely.

    I certainly know what ContactPoint wasn’t doing Wolfser – it wasn’t doing what it should and it cost a fortune. Couple that with the civil liberties issues involved and only the vested interests and those with a socialist agenda wanted the thing.

    Your remarks about “different incidents” regarding crime is pathetic frankly. My point is that if people engaged in that type of crime were locked up on their first offence they couldn’t do it again. You are being deliberately awkward because your point doesn’t pass muster.

    That’s because prison works and your remarks show your selfish attitude towards others, exemplified by not acknowledging the deaths, manslaughters, kidnappings and rapes of the people I mentioned earlier. Every one by a released prisoner previously incarcerated for similar crimes.

    Your blind desire for state control shows that whatever deterrence was in place was not suitable because it didn’t work – that’s the point Wolfy.

    Capital punishment may work because what is currently in place clearly doesn’t. Most people who have swung from a rope would be pretty much incapacitated don’t you think?

    DUH!

  13. Anon E Mouse

    Tom White – Some research from an establishment in the US, Pepperdine University, showed that for every execution it resulted in 74 less deaths the next year:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-smerconish/death-penalty-deters_b_72075.html

    What evidence do you have that it doesn’t work?

  14. Johann Koehler

    Dear Anon E Mouse:

    I had a look at the links you’ve provided. Many thanks.

    After some research, I found that both the study by Adler and Summers (from the HuffPo piece) and the study by Mocan (from the Newsmax piece) have been examined and discredited by some of the big names, in highly reputable journals: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1740-1461.2009.01168.x/full, and http://aler.oxfordjournals.org/content/11/2/335.short, respectively.

    A much more rigorous test of the hypothesis can be found here: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1745-9133.2009.00596.x/abstract

    This could easily descend into a back-and-forth of competing conclusions. Suffice it to say that the top criminologists working in the fields of capital punishment and deterrence, namely Frank Zimring, Jeff Fagan, John Donohue, Richard Berk, Dan Nagin, Michael Tonry, and countless others all recognise that there is no deterrent effect of capital punishment. People selling you a different story are simply doing bad science.

  15. Leon Wolfson

    There are a half-dozen people publishing papers claiming that. And many many more publishing papers claiming otherwise, and moreover it’s extremely – and typically – bad practice to be claiming data from the US, and only the US, maps closely to other systems, especially given the higher homicide rates in America – there are significant differences in crime profiles between the EU and US, for instance.

    Many papers calling the death penalty as a deterrence make no attempt to avoid the cum hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. This is not-a-coincidence…and coverups in America continue in cases like Cameron Todd Willingham’s, so the blooded-handed state murder machine can roll on.

  16. Anon E Mouse

    Leon Wolfson – Since we do not have the death penalty and the only other country similar to ours is the United States, who else would you suggest we get the data from? Iran?

    You still haven’t addressed my point about the 121 murders and 44 manslaughters carried out by reoffenders who had been released from similar crimes.

    Those individuals would still be alive if the RE-offenders hadn’t been released. Which is because prison works.

    Please tell me where you can show that the death penalty does not act as a deterrent. I have shown that in this country alone 121 and 44 people would be still alive today with capital punishment in place (or lifelong incarceration).

    Your comments on causation are wishy washy liberal nonsense and mean nothing. I have produced links to studies proving it does act as a deterrent and the families of the 165 dead people are directly evidenced here.

    Well?

  17. Leon Wolfson

    I haven’t addressed it because it’s not related to deterrence, of course, your claims are incoherent.

    You have not “shown” a single thing – it’s notable that the North Eastern states of America, where the death penalty is rarest, have the lowest murder rates. And that is, of course dealing with the much higher homicide rate of America.

    If, like you, I was willing to abandon the causative link, I’d be able to very easily “prove” that murder begets murder with that… but as I am actually intellectual honest I can’t, I’ll just say that you’re simply calling for death for the sake of death.

    Never mind those pesky “evidence” things when people are railroaded into the death penalty, eh? And never mind that it would undermine the UK government when UK nationals are accused abroad, in regimes where evidence is strictly optional.

    No, they have to go, for the sake of blood red hands.

  18. Anon E Mouse

    Leon Wolfson – It is very much related to deterrence since the punishment that the RE-offenders were given for similar crimes did not DETER them from committing similar crimes on their release.

    I can say with a 100% certainty that if they were unable to have access to their victims they would not have RE-offended again.

    And anyone else considering malice aforethought may have been dissuaded by considering that they may end up swinging from a rope. Because what we can say with a 100% certainty is that the current system isn’t working and those people would be alive if capital punishment was in place.

    I can accept you have the right to hold a minority opinion on this matter but you have not produced any “evidence” to substantiate your position, pesky or otherwise.

    What you have done is to look at the tactics involved in the punishment and the not the strategy of the concept of the punishment.

    To my knowledge no one has advocated murdering people who are innocent of the crime but that is not the topic of this article – the topic is the rights and wrongs of the state to have the right to execute those who it deems necessary of such punishment. Personally I would have natural life imprisonment which would achieve the same thing although perhaps not acting as such a good deterrent.

    Anyway now we know that you disagree with capital punishment. Fine.

    But where’s your evidence it doesn’t act as a deterrent…

  19. Leon Wolfson

    No, as mentioned in this very discussion thread, it’s incapacitation, which is really not the same thing at all.

    Where’s your evidence that, outside America, which has rates of murder disproportionate to the rest of Western society, that it does? And moreover, more than a few isolated studies that it does, even in America?

    And considerably less than half the population support murdering people as acceptable. Polls show that a majority do NOT support the death penalty in practice…more do in theory, yes, but there is a significant proportion of the electorate (even, and especially, in America) who accept that it’s not practical, without it being sometimes used on innocents – murder – and they can’t support it.

    “Because what we can say with a 100% certainty is that the current system isn’t working”

    Of course it is. Crime is at near historic lows, including homicide. Deterrence doesn’t work on the mentally ill, who carry out a significant proportion of homicides, and neither does it work in “heat of the moment” situations, another huge percentage.

    It’s about red-handed vengeance, not deterrence. And it’s accepting murder, because of the failures – in practice – of every system designed to stop innocents from being judicially executed, where it’s allowed.

    Far-right wingnuts like you may accept this as valid, but those of us who are civilised…

  20. Anon E Mouse

    Leon Woflson – Your emotive words like “murder” are not the issue.

    You are also incorrect on people that are mentally carrying out a “significant proportion of homicides” – From Wednesday, 29 June 2011: http://www.publichealth.hscni.net/news/suicide-and-homicide-people-mental-illness-launch-challenging-report

    The NSPCC states at least one child a week is murdered in this country. That statistic is significant since most people in favour of capital punishment certainly want it for child murderers.

    Anyway now we know that you disagree with capital punishment. Fine.

    And along with your usual New Labour smearing Wolfy Boy, you have not shown a single piece of evidence that capital punishment does not act as a deterrent.

    Well?

  21. Leon Wolfson

    It’s not “emotive words”, it’s an accurate description of a crime.

    And capital punishment for child murders eh?

    Timothy Evans
    Sally Clark
    Stefan Kiszko
    Angela Cannings
    The Birmingham Six (one victim was 17)

    I could go on, but it’s quite evident that you don’t give a shit about lives, except when advocating taking them.

    You can’t even admit it’s red handed vengeance, and has nothing to do with deterrence at all – America’s situation simply isn’t similar enough to ours to draw the lines you are, and as I said it’s utterly out of touch with the real situation, which is that crimes rates have plummeted over the last decades, and in America, in the states where the death penalty is least used.

    Utterly ignoring reality.
    Utterly ignoring civilisation.
    Utterly condoning murder.

    (And you STILL can’t get over the fact I’m an actual left-winger, can you…pathetic…typical BNPer)

  22. SadButMadLad

    Only 5 reasons? I have ten reasons why the death penalty should not be reinstated – http://www.annaraccoon.com/politics/ten-reasons-to-not-have-the-death-penalty/

  23. Anon E Mouse

    Leon Wolfson – No it is capital punishment not murder. A state cannot “murder” an individual. It is a state.

    And apart from the evidence shown to prove my case you have produced nothing but smears as usual.

    And I certainly can understand you are a left winger – that’s why despite being a Lib Dem voter I frequent this fine blog. Nothing like some dogma to start the day with.

    So we have nothing from you apart from the fact you are a danger magnet with bullets, bombs and “ambushes” from the marauding BNP gangs that frequent your local Asda (twice) – or was it some secret mission we’re not allowed to be told about?

    Please don’t go anywhere Wolfy Boy. Life would be so much less colourful without your “theories” to lighten up the day…

    (I’ll do the “Monster in the bushes” stuff next time)

  24. Jacob O'Neil

    Five good reasons why the death penalty should not be reinstated: http://bit.ly/r05nfE : writes @danielelton

  25. likeyou

    Five good reasons why the death penalty should not be reinstated: http://bit.ly/r05nfE : writes @danielelton

  26. Double.Karma

    Five good reasons why the death penalty should not be reinstated: http://bit.ly/r05nfE : writes @danielelton

  27. Leon Wolfson

    Yes, I’m sure you love your monster in the bushes. Physical assaults are very much your style. Probably because there’s the blood you crave involved. And killing an innocent person is murder, your cheese-slicing makes no difference to this.

    There is much evidence, you haven’t read it. As usual.

    The “theories” are yours. Your theories that murder is acceptable, for instance, which is pure BNP – your claim that you’re a LibDem voter is about as credible as Pol Pot’s.

  28. Gondolfin

    This is a pointless debate. All the petitions in the world won’t change the fact that the death penalty can *never* be brought back. EU law forbids it. Unless you honestly think that the UK will be happy to leave the organisation that serves as its largest trading partner.

  29. d.mcardle

    “the weakest in society” (point 12) ARE those who kill.Their impoverished life experience will have led them there,so that is what we have to try and improve.
    Death penalty is supposed to be a deterrent ? what are the stats ? Is this an attempt to deal with the prison population? Society already kills many people ,on the roads,from eating sugar and smoking (slower yes) Hanging is barbaric, the death penalty is SYMBOLIC, the ‘crime’ will not be killed – it WILL happen again.

  30. d.mcardle

    and of course soldiers kill for society for the world for justice ,sometimes.

  31. Gerrysea

    I submitted the following comment to the Sun on-line debate:

    “I regret to report that this opinion survey is an absolute nonsense and totally meaningless, Assuming that the aim is supposed to be to reflect the opinion of the people of Britain about the ‘Death Penalty’ in Britain?

    I have succeeded in voting in it 10 (Ten) times, Colleagues around the UK have also found that they were able to register multiple votes and even contacts of mine in the USA and Australia have also found that, not only where they are able to register a vote but they were also able to register multiple votes??

    I trust that the Sun will not be trying to convince its readers and the nations politicians, that the results of this survey are a genuine reflection of opinions in Britain when it has permitted multiple voting from home and overseas? For this reason the results will truly be meaningless!

    It will be interesting to see if there is any response from the Sun about this?”

    Needless to say, they did not post my comment and subsequent to making that comment, I an now unable to log-in in order to comment further. Freedom of speech, eh?

  32. Ragdoll123

    HOT FREAKING DOGSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS! POOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

  33. Death Penalty Is Good :D

    LELELELLELELELELELELELELEL

  34. Scotty

    Guido Fawkes is a first rate twit, muckraker and airhead who could not string a balanced argument out on a perfectly level snooker table.

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