Wednesday, November 23, 2005

String 'em Up

Lord Stephens, ex Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, claims that he has rethought his position on the death penalty, and now feels that it should be reintroduced for the murder of police officers.

The murder of those who are employed to protect us (when they aren’t eating burgers in parked patrol cars) is obviously an emotive issue, but I fail to see why the murder of a policeman should be treated differently from that of any member of the public. Is the life of a policeman to be deemed more valuable than that of Joe Bloggs?

I’ve always been vehemently opposed to the death penalty. I don’t approach the subject from the same angle as most oppositionists. The usual arguments against the death penalty are:
1) There is always the possibility that due to a miscarriage of justice someone
innocent will be executed.
2) The possibility of a life sentence is a sufficient deterrent: there is no need for the death penalty.
Both of these arguments are ceasing to be persuasive. Improvements in forensic science, and the advent of DNA testing, mean an unsafe conviction is unlikely (if not impossible). As regards the deterrence argument, the murder rate is four times the level as when the death penalty was in force.

My opposition to the death penalty rests on the sanctity of life. This may seem perverse as the victims of murder have had their right to life violated. Surely their murderer should pay the ultimate price? I would claim that just because someone is guilty of murder doesn’t give us the right to take their life. If life is seen as sacrosanct then we should not have the right to take it under any circumstances. (I’m not getting into the argument about the right of the state to take life, that’s a separate, if linked issue).

I’m not a liberal who believes that everyone is capable of rehabilitation, or places the welfare of the offender above that of the victim. I think the practise of releasing people convicted to a life sentence for murder after ten or fifteen years is profoundly misguided. This shows contempt for the victim, and reduces the deterrence value afforded by the life sentence.

There is an argument that, as most of the population would support the reintroduction of the death penalty, a referendum should be held on the issue. One of the principles of representative parliamentary democracy is that MP’s should have a free vote on matters of personal conscience. The majority of MP’s are opposed to the death penalty. I think that their right to determine the law on this issue should be defended. Some matters are just too important to be left to the visceral sense of anger and fear that is (often justifiably) felt by the public.


Piggy and Tazzy said...

Yay! I'm first!

Spot-on! I too disagree with the death penalty based on my belief in the sanctity of life.

And you are absolutely correct - an emotive issue such as this one should NEVER be down to public opinion, for very obvious reasons.

Even though you're not discussing it, I just wanted to add that my own personal opinion is that the state, any state, should never have the right to take a life, mostly because such decisions are almost always as a result of political motive.

garfer said...

Only 25% of the population would agree with us.
I can understand why most people sipport the death penalty on a gut level. I just don't think 'gut level' opinions should hold sway on matters of life or death.

Herge Smith said...

Agree, obviously 100% - and this links back to what I was saying about how we view murder/ death in the media.

It's blatantly ridiculous to have a two tier system for the death penalty, and if this did go through it would never end there.

Equality - is it really that hard for people to grasp what it means.

garfer said...

If we end up compromising our liberties too much we detroy what we are ostensibly trying to protect.
This government always seem to opt for the knee jerk response. Banning hand guns for inst didn't stop people getting shot, it just prevented responsible people enjoying a harmless pastime.

surly girl said...

if you held a referendum on this the scum and the daily mail would have a field day. i agree that it's not enough to resort to the childlike justification of "he/she did it first" to try and justify the death penalty. if life is sacrosanct (is that even a word or did i make it up?) then where does the power to decide the fate of others come from? i believe that fate is the controlling force, not law-enforcement agencies or the government (that i didn't elect).

if life meant life, this discussion would be redundant. regrettably life means about nine years, which is an insult to those seeking justice.

however, on the subject that you didn't bring up, reinstating national service (bootcamp mentality without any sanctimonious allegiance to the "mother country") would give those dolescum chav leeches summat to think about.

*climbs down from soapbox and thinks about going to bed*

garfer said...

I don't think national service is really necessary, they could be forced to live as slaves and perform useful services for right thinking people like us. That would be most acceptable.

surly girl said...

slaves is good. if it keeps my car clean and stops the thick wankers mooching round vicky wine of an evening i'm all for it.

christ, is that the time? i'm getting rewired in the morning. must be off.

Sniffy said...

Murder should not be sanctioned by the state under any circumstances and that is what the death penalty is. It is utterly wrong.

I believe that the chance of any debate has been taken out of Britain's hands and has been passed onto Brussels (or something European). I'm not keen on this idea in general, but at least on this issue, the answer to those who insist on harping on about it is "It's not in our control".

As for the lives of certain people being worth more than others? I've mentioned this somewhere else, but this concept is as perverse as anything I've encountered. Everybody has an equal right to life and an equal worth. Why should a copper or a child's life be worth more than a nurse's, teacher's, doctor's, call centre employee's? It is arguments like this that make me thankful that the country has no say on the reintroduction of the death penalty. It is clearly obvious that people, despite having equal worth, don't necessarily have equal intelligence and the vast majority of the population is reactionary and worryingly stupid.

garfer said...

Hmmm. Everyone's agreeing with me here.
You're right on the Brussels point. The worrying thing is that if there are terrorist atrocities/increased levels of criminal gun use, some politician might respond to public clamour for restoration of the death penalty by pointing this out and calling for withdrawal from Europe.
I'm no fan of the European Union, but I wouldn't like to see withdrawal on those grounds.

suburban wonder said...

Ok, I'll disagree.

I used to be fairly fuzzy on my capital punishment stance. No more. I believe that there are some people who just don't deserve to live: serial killers and child molesters, for example.

I'm not as kind as the State of Delaware, either, where we do enforce the death penalty. Serial killers should be disposed of in the same manner that they killed their victims. Child molesters should have their genitals glued to a petrol-soaked tree stump and handed a knife while I throw a lit match onto the stump.

Yes, I've become a bit more bloodthirsty since I've become a parent. Failing that, it's PMS.

S.I.D. said...

Just asking Bronwen.....but would you still light the match if say, your own child,grandchild or great grandchild was found guilty of child molesting?

I have worked with both abused and abusers, and the abusers were children.

Rowan said...

I don't believe in capital punishment, but the point should be about the cost of keeping someone alive vs. lifetime in jail...unfortunately, the truth is that people on deathrow actually cost more, and if you are really after dishing out some punishment, the best way is to make a prisoner suffer, crust of bread, water and the crack of the whip to keep the fuckers inline...none of that "human rights" crap, you should lose your rights the moment you decide to be a crook.

garfer said...

I don't think anyone would lose much sleep if child killers were executed. The problem is that you either have capital punishment or you don't. You can't say it's appropriate for one variety of murderer and not another.

funny thing said...

Here's the answer.

No to capital punishment - killing someone for killing is ludicrous... it's the same action over and over but taken in turns.
'I hit him because he hit me first'.

Yes to life meaning life. You forfeit your right to a nice fluffy life the second you destroy someone else's. Throw away the key.

And while we're on the subject... prisoners demanding conjugal rights? Sueing prisons because their beds are too hard?

Last time I looked, prison was supposed to be a punishment. Basic food, no tv, no cigarettes, no drugs, hard labour. Prisoners cost money? Fine, make them work. This country is too liberal for its own good.

Wyndham said...

I've got a hangover and the word 'oppositionist' has really given me trouble this morning. Death to bar owners!

frobisher said...

One reason the death should never be re-introduced is the cases of the Guilford Four and the Birmingham Six. These people were framed by the police and would be dead now if we had capital punishment. The Police have shot themselves in the foot (excuse poor pun).

garfer said...

'Oppositionist' might not even be a word. I probably made it up.
Apparently the easiest place to get drugs is in prison. The screws couldn't give a toss because smacked up inmates generally don't start riots. They take a very different attitude to alcohol.

Wyndham said...

I think that's why oppositionist troubled me somewhat. Hey ho, it's a good word to make up, certainly better than centralitiest.

BigDov said...

I was going to leave a comment, but all points seem to have been covered

suburban wonder said...

To clarify, Cold Earth,

If my child, grandchild, etc. were found guilty of child molesting and were not currently a minor, then yes, I would have to throw the match. I have a Cold Cold Heart where Child Molestation is concerned.

If my child, grandchild, etc. were found guilty and were a minor, then I would place my fervent hope in rehabilitation and repentance.

Garfer, don't be obtuse. The death penalty is not a blanket sentence and can indeed be reserved for the most heinous of crimes. That is why we have judges - to determine the severity of punishment meted out to convicts.

garfer said...

I am not obtuse! I am acute(ly) in need of a drink.
I don't really have much trust in judges, and I certainly don't think that any one person should have the power to mete out the death penalty.
For a politician to have the power of this ultimate sanction is even worth. Cuddly old Bill Clinton was happy enough to sign death warrants.
We'll have to agree to disagree on this one.

garfer said...

That should have been 'worse'. Doh.

surly girl said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
surly girl said...

ooh, ooh! i've thought of an exception to the "no death penalty" standpoint - his name is james blunt*

* see also cullum, melua, powter, johnson and tunstall. and dido.

garfer said...

Definitely. Line them up and hand me the flamethrower. James Blunt would look 'beautiful' as toast.

MHN for short said...

If they would actually keep the dangerous people in prison then I would be all for no death penalty. I too believe that murderers and people who commit crimes against the body of another person can not be rehabilitated. There is something wrong with them that (usually ans most unfortunately) can not be "fixed". I just wish that the tax payers didn't have to support the bastards...