Why I have reconsidered my stance on the death penalty

3 Oct 2015

 

The death penalty is an emotive and controversial subject that is often the subject of discussion on social media. For my entire adult life, I have been deeply sceptical about this form of punishment, whether in the UK or abroad.

 

The list of countries that still execute criminals includes several world superpowers. Recent figures from Amnesty International make for eye-watering reading:

 

 

Despite the fact that capital punishment for murder was abolished in the UK in 1965, we are still living in an age of state-sponsored murder. Indeed, Prime Minister David Cameron recently passed a death sentence via a drone, which killed a British citizen fighting for Islamic State.

 

We should of course seek to minimise instances of capital punishment. Individuals in countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia have been murdered by their own governments for the most disproportionate ‘crimes’. However, it is now my view that capital punishment is justified in certain circumstances. My change of heart on this matter has been prompted by Britain’s feeble justice system, which has – in recent times – failed to adequately punish those who have committed heinous crimes. We need to strengthen our systems of punishment, including the reintroduction of the death penalty.

 

Yet, there should be rigorous oversight to avoid the misuse of these powers. David Cameron should have sought parliamentary approval before initiating drone strikes on IS. Likewise, the reintroduction of the death penalty should be prefaced by a national referendum, so that the final decision rests in the hands of the people. Moreover, if the law was approved, it should be necessary for a unanimous jury verdict to be passed in order for a sentence to be carried out.

 

The state’s right to kill should not be taken lightly. But, without it, we risk yielding carelessly to malevolent individuals both in the UK and abroad.

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