Friday, 3 February 2012

We don't know who they are

The UK death penalty was suspended in 1965 and abolished in 1969 – 1973 for Northern Ireland. 

So - abolition of capital punishment - murder rate rises a little, although by how much it is not easy to say. More work for the state, more work for state employees and private businesses. Suppose a lifer costs £50,000 per annum. Say over 30 years that’s £1.5 million, although the numbers aren't that important.

Did those who abolished capital punishment foresee this outcome, at least as a possibility? Did someone look at the likely costs and a few more murders and see it as a worthwhile trade?

If so, was it the case that MPs didn’t fancy more and more protests and vigils every time a hanging took place? Were the costs and extra murders deemed worthwhile for that reason? It certainly allowed MPs to escape both the moral questions and the opprobrium each hanging inevitably brought with it.

Or was it purely a moral question? Capital punishment is just wrong and the risk of hanging an innocent person is just too high.

I suggest the last viewpoint is too simple. Many powerful people benefitted and continue to benefit from the abolition of capital punishment - too many to put these benefits and their continuance down to purely moral causes.

Those murder victims against whom the benefits must be set, are unknowns – people who might not have been murdered if capital punishment had not been abolished. They don’t have a voice or a life, but the powerful beneficiaries have both. Conversely, there are those unknown people who might have been hanged in error to add to the equation.  

That isn’t to say capital punishment is right or wrong, or that it was abolished for this reason or that reason. Yet some have benefitted from its abolition - MPs in particular. They have escaped moral responsibility and this undoubted major benefit continues to this day. Escaping moral responsibility - yes they're good at that.

As for those extra murder victims, well there is no danger of them forming a support group, because that's the beauty of it from the MP's point of view - we don't know who they are.


Sam Vega said...

I think this is only valid if we were able to show that the (indeterminate) increase in murder is directly attributable to the abolition; and if those who made the decision to abolish had the intention of evading responsibility.

The murdered have no rights in this matter. Either they do not exist at all, or for all we know they exist in a state of abolitionist frenzy....

A K Haart said...

SV - I think MPs must have expected some rise, but would have been attracted by the indeterminacy, which they would also have foreseen, or had pointed out to them.

In other words, their motives may not have been moral, but they knew they could present them as moral.

Sam Vega said...

Actually, my views on the death penalty have just reversed. Especially for perverting the course of justice over speeding charges.

What do you think?

A K Haart said...

SV - great minds!! I suppose he'd refuse the hemlock.

James Higham said...

Now that one took a bit of getting the head round.

rogerh said...

In the beginning the peasants delivered justice
Then the King delivered justice
Then the Home Office delivered justice
Then the Home Office rowed back
And rowed back
And rowed back
Until justce hardly got a look-in

A K Haart said...

JH - which bit?

rogerh - "Until justice hardly got a look-in" and neither did the peasants.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Haart

The death penalty has not been abolished, merely execution by hanging.


A K Haart said...

DP - are you sure? For which crimes is the death penalty still in force?