LEGAL EAGLE: Arguing the right and wrongs over use of the death penalty

When Donald Trump became US President he resumed the federal death penalty after a 17-year hiatus. His administration is proceeding with vigour post-election.

So far in 2020, 10 US federal prisoners have been executed. The last time the number of civilian federal executions reached double digits was under President Grover Cleveland with 14 in 1896.

Where do you stand on the death penalty?

Strong views are held both in favour and against the death penalty. The arguments include:-

Retribution – many people believe real justice requires people to suffer for their wrongdoing. Others argue against retribution as a concept but in any event state anticipatory suffering.

Deterrence – it is argued the death penalty deters crime. Evidence in the USA however is that states which have abolished the death penalty have seen no increase in murder rates.

To prevent reoffending – if executed the person cannot commit further crimes.

Many people believe this does not justify taking human life when a person could be imprisoned for life without parole.

Contrary to popular belief it can be more costly to administer justice by execution than imprisoning someone for life.

Closure – it is argued execution may bring closure to victims’ families.

Perhaps one of the strongest arguments against the death penalty is the risk of executing the wrong person.

Despite having one of the best criminal justice systems, the UK wrongly convicts significant numbers of innocent people often of very serious crimes e.g. the Guildford Four.

Had the death penalty existed many of these innocent people would have been wrongly executed. Is this really a price worth paying?

Recently attention has been given to our own Home Secretary’s views on the death penalty.

It is the writer’s opinion that Priti Patel’s views are at best unclear. Great Britain abolished the death penalty in 1965.

A YouGov poll in 2019 found a majority of Brits back the death penalty for terrorist murder, multiple murder and murder of a child. The debate will go on.