One story that caught my eye before the riots was this story regarding a series of you-gov polls where many voted for a debate on bringing back capital punishment in the UK.
Has the silly season started already? Well its good to see that the old-geezers-that-read-the-Daily-Mail-an-wha-fought-in-the-war-like-(least we think we did)-that-reckon-we-should bring-back-hangin-an-send-all-the-immigrants-home-even-the-ones-who-were-born-here generation have found the internet. What a pity they brought their narrow bigoted medieval world view with them. One of the problems with these you-gov polls, and many internet petitions in general, is the ease with which they can be abused. One can only vote to support the measure, not vote against it.
Had someone proposed a poll suggesting that Comedian Mark Thomas take on capital punishment be adopted, I reckon theyve have won over. Incidentally, his quip was that capital punishment should be brought back but made voluntary. You can opt in to capital punishment, specify a list of things that you reckon should be hanging offences (dog shitting on lawns, dropping litter, failing to indicate when changing lanes, what ever takes youre fancy really) and if YOU get ever caught doing any of these, then they hang you for it :>>!
But seriously, I cant believe we need to have this debate, but since the old Daily Mail geezers brought it up…Whats wrong with capital punishment? Well firstly its a concept built on a series of falsehoods. Firstly, that our criminal justice system is infallible and always works perfectly. Not true, its probable that a significant number of cases lead to some form of miscarriage of justice. Consequently supporters of capital punishment are prepared to see innocent people killed just to satisfy their egos. Such judicial murder has little moral difference between it and the morality of the murderer himself. Also jurys might be less willing to convict if they know its a hanging offence rather than jail, hence the conviction rate for actual murders will likely fall not rise.
The second falsehood of capital punishment is that it acts as a deterrent and prevents murders. There is no evidence to support this, indeed the murder rates in many countries with capital punishment (such as America) is often much higher than in other countries without it (such as Britain or Canada). Its also argued that the majority of murders are heat of the moment affairs, and thus capital punishment is unlikely to act as any form of deterrent in such circumstances. It could make some hardened criminals think twice, but generally I suspect it will mean them adopting a more ruthless policy of leaving no living witnesses if things go wrong (e.g. a bank robber accidentally kills a guard, game theory would say his best course of action, under a capital punishment regime, would be to kill everyone else in the room and thus reduce the probability of him being convicted, and if he gets caught anyway, what are they going to do? hang him ten times!).
The third falsehood is that there is a humane way of executing someone, but theres not (other than making them listen to all the 4,000 episodes of the Archers one after the other without a break). Even the lethal injection process used in the states is now being questioned.
Inevitably capital punishment meets the terms of cruel and unusual punishment. This would put the UK in breach of various EU treaties requiring it to leave the EU (not that that would put off the Daily Mail lot who want that anyway) but heres one that will throw them in a tizzy it would also invalidate a number of extradition treaties with Englands neighbours! Hence you commit a murder and dont want to be hung for it? Hop on a boat and go to France or Ireland. Worried about being caught at the border? Go via Northern Ireland and just drive south, no border controls of any kind. Even if the French or Irish police catch you, they cannot extradite you back to Britain if the brits have capital punishment, so rather than doing 25 years in Strangeways, youll do a life sentence on beaches of le Cote du Azur B), oh la la!
And of course, as Scotland has a separate judicial system (youll note my use of the E word above), and its unlikely that such a proposal would get past a Scottish parliament, you might only need to head North into Caledonia (again no border controls, only 8 hours drive from London) and hide out in Paisley…tho I would warn you that survival chances in Paisley for a Englishman are probably less than those on death row!
As Pierrepoint, one of Britains last hang men, put it I have come to the conclusion that executions solve nothing, and are only an antiquated relic of a primitive desire for revenge. Or as Gandhi put it an eye for an eye will leave the whole world blind.
All anyone who proposes bringing back hangin succeeds in demonstrating is that he hasnt a clue what hes talking about. Its a tough sound bite, makes you sound hard, but its soft on logic and a morally bankrupt proposal that would create far more problems that it solves. So thanks guys for letting us know to ignore anything you propose in future.
Oh, and read Charlie Brookers take on this here. Word of warning, its a bit dark!