Confront a yob on the top deck of a bus, or a bunch of louts loitering outside your front door, and you risk being stabbed, shot or kicked to death. With the increase in drugs, guns and lawlessness, Britain is awash with criminals who do not hesitate to casually and cruelly end a life. We constantly hear about police being shot, babies being raped, girls kidnapped, raped and murdered, and citizens robbed and killed. Re-introducing the death penalty in the UK is therefore a topic that is increasingly gathering steam. This message is the same from Gav′s POLITICS, UK CJ Weblog and Away with Mike, to Then Three Come Along, Commonwealth Watch, GraBlog and Musings of a blonde, from the BNP to the UK Independence Party, a Labour Councillor, a former police chief and a Shadow home secretary. If it is correct that we bloggers have political power, the blogs of the UK must unite around a rallying cry of ‘Bring Back the Death Penalty’.
In England, the House of Commons concluded that capital punishment must be seen as inhuman and degrading and abolished capital punishment in 1973. The death penalty is now prohibited by Protocol 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Also Article 7 of the EU treaty states that action will be taken against member states where there is a ‘clear risk of a human rights breach’. However, we citizens also have rights and the death penalty should have a place in our protection as a last resort and reminder that there are crimes so heinous that only the ultimate penalty is sufficient.
New Labour won the 1997 general election with its flagship policy, “Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime”. This initiative has long been lost, with crime on the increase nationally and across Europe, violent crime increasing, high homicide rates, sexual offences spiralling and large percentages of offenders being reconvicted within a two year period. It is therefore apparent that on average the criminal justice system does not achieve its objectives of deterrence, retribution, rehabilitation and protecting the public. It has previously been argued, “If the question is how we can restrain known, convicted criminals from murdering, raping, assaulting, burglarising and thieving?’ prison is by far the most effective answer short of the death penalty”. As imprisonment alone has not worked in practice, we now need to go one step further.
It is evident that the past use of imprisonment as the highest form of punishment has failed to achieve its objectives as a method of crime control. In terms of whether imprisonment could be made to work, there are strong implications that it fails to achieve the purposes of sentencing under the Criminal Justice Act 2003. I concede that the Act has only recently been implemented to some extent and only time will tell whether the methods to be used in the seamless end to end sentencing will achieve the prescribed purposes of sentencing. Based on the current available evidence it appears that some of the sentencing purposes are not achieved with reference the majority of offenders. It’s role within the criminal justice system must be overhauled so that punishments for crimes are regarded by citizens and offenders as inevitable, instantaneous, severe, flexible and comprehensive. There will always be individuals that need to be sanctioned and segregated from society because of the behaviour they display and the risks that they pose. It is important that while this process is enacted, that the offenders concerned are presented and prompted with effective options to modify their behaviour through the relevant means. Furthermore, there will always be individuals that commit crimes so heinous that only the death penalty is sufficient.
Whether or not offenders will consider the ultimate deterrent prior to their offence, the fact remains that punishments must fit the crime. In the interests of justice, the perpetrators of crime must receive punishments that are proportionate to the crime as well as equivalent. When offenders are sentenced to life they should serve life, and when they take life they should receive a sentence of death. Longer sentences and the re-introduction of the death penalty is the only way forward in stopping the scourge of violent crime and lawlessness that infects our streets.
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