Capital Punishment Is the Only Way to Deter Criminals
Perhaps all criminals should be required to carry cards which read: Fragile: Handle with Care. It will never do, these days, to go around referring to criminals as violent thugs. You must refer to them politely as “social misfits”. The professional killer who wouldn’t think twice about using his cosh or crowbar to batter some harmless old lady to death in order to rob her of her meagre life-savings must never be given a dose of his own medicine. He is in need of “hospital treatment”. According to his misguided defenders, society is to blame. A wicked society breeds evil – or so the argument goes. When you listen to this kind of talk, it makes you wonder why we aren’t all criminals. We have done away with the absurdly harsh laws of the nineteenth century and this isonly right. But surely enough is enough. The most senseless piece of criminal legislation in Britain and a number of other countries has been the suspension of capital punishment.
The violent criminal has become a kind of hero-figure in our time. He is glorified on the screen; he is pursued by the press and paid vast sums of money for his “memoirs”. Newspapers which specialise in crime-reporting enjoy enormous circulations and the publishers of trashy cops and robbers stories or “murder mysteries” have never had it so good. When you read about the achievements of the great train robbers, it makes you wonder whether you are reading about some glorious resistance movement. The hardened criminal is cuddled and cosseted by the sociologists on the one hand and adored as a hero by the masses on the other. It’s no wonder he is a privileged person who expects and receives VIP treatment wherever he goes.
Capital punishment used to be a major deterrent. It made the violent robber think twice before pulling the trigger. It gave the cold-blooded poisoner something to ponder about while he was shaking up or serving his arsenic cocktail. It prevented unarmed policemen from being mowed down while pursuing their duty by killers armed with automatic weapons. Above all, it protected the most vulnerable members of society, young children, from brutal sex-maniacs. It is horrifying to think that the criminal can literally get away with murder. We all know that “life sentence” does not mean what it says. After ten years or so of “good conduct”, the most desperate villain is free to return to society where he will live very comfortably, thank you, on the proceeds of his crime, or he will go on committing offences until he is caught again. People are always willing to hold liberal views at the expense of others. It’s always fashionable to pose as the defender of the under-dog, so long as you, personally, remain unaffected.
Did the defenders of crime, one wonders, in their desire for fair-play, consult the victims before they suspended capital punishment? Hardly. You see, they couldn’t, because all the victims were dead.
Debating the death penalty. This report about a vote in the British House of Commons on restoring or reintroducing the death penalty (in Britain traditionally by hanging) comes from the BBC.
The last judicial hanging in Britain was back in 1964. But every two years or so, supporters of capital punishment make an attempt to persuade the Commons to bring back the death penalty. The latest, on Monday, saw the most emphatic rejection yet of the arguments for bringing back the hangman. The Commons voted by a ratio of two to one that courts should not be able to sentence convicted murderers to death. Such a decisive vote will settle the matter for some years.
But inevitably, sooner or later the hanging lobby will make another attempt to amend the law.
For while MPs have turned their backs on the biblical doctrine of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”, among the general public there’s strong support for the death penalty. This was one of the main arguments used by supporters of the death penalty during the Commons debate. Not only would the return of the rope reflect public opinion, it was argued, it would also act as a deterrent to criminals and cut down on the number of murders.
The anti-hanging lobby argues on practical grounds – that there’s no evidence that the death penalty functions as a deterrent – and on moral grounds, that the state has no right to deprive its citizens of the right to live.
The arguments have been well rehearsed over the years. But the most compelling argument, and the one which most contributed to the enormous majority against hanging in Monday’s vote, is the possibility of a miscarriage of justice. The “Guildford Four” – jailed in the mid-seventies for IRA bombings it later transpired they did not commit – might well have been hanged if the death penalty had still been in force.
Now a quiz on some points of law – English style. The answers may well be different in your country. Simply answer the questions “yes”or “no”. The answers according to English law are printed at the end of the quiz.
1. Is it a crime to try and kill yourself?
2. Is it illegal to help somebody to commit suicide?
3. Can you be executed for murdering a policeman?
4. If, after a murder, all the victim’s relatives plead: “Please don’t prosecute!” can charges against the suspected culprit be dropped?
5. If two armed thieves break into a house, guns in hand, and one of them shoots and kills the house-owner, is his accomplice guilty of murder?
6. If I surprise an intruder in my lounge at night stealing my millions, have I a legal right to assault him with a weapon?
7. If I set a trap – a fifty-kilo weight just above the front door – for any burglars who might try and enter the house, am I breaking the law?
8. After a divorce or legal separation, can a wife be required to pay alimony to her ex-husband?
9. If I promise to marry my girlfriend and then change my mind shortly before the wedding, can she take me to court?
10. If you said to your teacher in the middle of one of his lessons: “You don’t know the first thing about teaching!” could he bring a civil action against you?
11. Would I be in danger of committing an offence if I put an advertisement for my school in the paper saying: “Male white teacher required”?
12. If, as a defendant (or the accused), I am not satisfied with the way my barrister has handled my defence, can I sue him?
13. If you were in my house – uninvited – and the ceiling, which had had a large crack in it for some time, caved in and broke your leg, would it be a good idea to consult your solicitor?
14. Can a person suspected of and charged with rape be allowed bail?
1. No, not any more.
2. Yes, even mercy-killing (euthanasia) is against the law.
3. No. Capital punishment was abolished in the 1960s.
4. No. Murder is a crime against society (this involves criminal law) and not just a civil matter between individuals.
5. Yes. Joint guilt. In the eyes of the law, both are guilty.
6. No – at least, only in self-defence.
9. No, not now. Some years ago she could have sued me for breach of promise.
10. Yes, he/she could claim it was slander (or libel, if you wrote it in a newspaper). He/she probably wouldn’t, though, because of the legal costs.
11. Yes, because of the Sex Discrimination Act and the Race Relations Act.
13. Yes. You could sue me for negligence and I would probably have to pay damages.
Give answers to the same questions according to Belarusian law.