There has been a public call for a debate in the House of Commons about the status of capital punishment in the United Kingdom. The Death Penalty was abolished in Britain in 1964, while in Northern Ireland, it was not until 1973 that it was outlawed. In spite of this, no executions took place in Northern Ireland after 1961. Since British and Irish society has changed so much since the early '70s, perhaps we should indeed be debating the reintroduction of capital punishment.
Words like "uncivilised" and "inhumane" are thrown around in opposition to the death penalty. However, 42 nations across the world maintain it and recent developments have proved there is popular concern about this issue. It cannot be denied that Paul Stains from Restore Justice has a case to answer. Andrew Turner MP has also staked his support for the death penalty for certain, "horrific" crimes. With such high-profile media coverage, a national debate has most certainly already begun.
There are three arguments, in my view, against the imposition of capital punishment. Firstly, where the State kills convicted criminals as a form of punishment, it is stooping to the standards of the ganglands from which those murdering thugs have emerged. Instead of attempting to govern with integrity, the State is throwing its weight around. Secondly, there has been such an uproar about torture and collusion allegations on the part of the British police and armed forces. Can the public oppose this violation of civil liberties with one placard, whilst with the other, condone the ultimate mistreatment of another human being? Thirdly, there must be an answer to the question as to what capital punishment achieves. Sure, it will lower the prison population and reduce public spending on the long-term maintenance of criminals. At a moral level, though, is it an effective mode of 21st century justice? Or is it a "relic of the past"?
In a clear example of sober logic, Anthony Barnett argues that "the toffs need the tabloidites to prove that they are guarding the gates from the barbarians." Clive Stafford-Smith, whose preaching style I have witnessed in person, would argue against capital punishment based on almost twenty years of practical legal experience. We should not succumb to 'Daily Mail politics', but should open our ears to those who really understand the implications of capital punishment for government and for society. Jeffrey Donaldson MP is right to support the debate; now he must listen and responsibly lead the people of Northern Ireland on this topic, and on others.
The floor is open.
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