Is there any place for the death penalty in the modern world?
Steve Wright has today been convicted of the murder of 5 women in the sleepy town of Ipswich in Suffolk. Once again a debate has been sparked on the re-introduction or not of the death penalty.
The Christian view is clear. It is a sin to take a person’s life under any circumstances. But the UK is a fiercely secular society where the opinion of the church is at best derided and more often than not totally ignored. Ironically America, where faith is more widely practiced and demonstrated, still supports capital punishment in some states.
I don’t have an opinion. I wish I did. Dithering is not a quality I normally possess! But I have been following today’s debate hoping that a logical answer will leap out at me, but so far it’s not.
Putting the ethical argument aside we are still faced with something of a dichotomy.
The supporters have today been making much of the fact that we train our armed forces to kill whether it be in Iraq, Afghanistan, or on our own soil should anyone attempt to harm our people. We are already prepared to take life under certain circumstances, so why should a serial murderer be spared?
Since the abolition of the death penalty in the UK in 1964, unlawful killings have doubled. There are still however, 5 times as many murders per head of population in the US than here. Supporters genuinely feel that the threat of death is a great deterrent. After all, a life sentence does not mean a life spent incarcerated. Most murderers know they will be released after about 15 years.
They also point to the cost of keeping a prisoner locked up compared with that of ending his or her life. But should that even be a debating point?
‘The death penalty is the bluntest of blunt instruments. It removes the individual's humanity and with it any chance of rehabilitation and their giving something back to society.’ So say the vocal majority who are still opposed to its return.
They also point out that the family and friends of the convicted person become unwilling victims themselves. And what about miscarriages of justice? It’s not uncommon for judgements on the most serious crimes to be overturned as modern detection methods advance allowing old cases to be reopened. Death is final.
I’m open to all views, and I’d love to hear yours.