Beyond Reasonable Doubt

Certain issues tend to come to the fore from time to time and the reintroduction of the death penalty is one such. The arguments will be aired –  and they won’t be radically different from the last time that they were exposed to daylight. The debate will rage back and forth and the same basic points will be chewed over. No one’s mind will be changed and we will put the matter back into the drawer from whence it came until the next time.

Of course, whether this e-petition thing is merely a sop to the masses, a great pretence at listening is another matter. Guido’s campaign to restore the ultimate sanction for certain types of killer will never be made law. But why just cop-killers and child-killers? What about cops who kill ordinary citizens? And why is the life of a child deemed more valuable than that of an adult? Are we not all human under the skin, irrespective of our time on this planet?

That’s by the by; it is a silly campaign on the face of it, doomed as it is to fail and frankly, just because an awful lot of people want something, it doesn’t follow that it is the right thing to do. The ultimate democracy is merely mob rule and when did that suddenly become a fine, upstanding idea?

No, a little bit of me is wondering if there is a subtext to all of this. If the e-petitions thing is merely bread and circuses for the masses, a pretence that parliament is listening, then the failure of a populist campaign will demonstrate the “listening to what you say” line to be a lie just as we suspected all along.

Or am I crediting Guido with too much intelligence aforethought?

20 comments for “Beyond Reasonable Doubt

  1. Robert Edwards
    August 7, 2011 at 8:12 am

    Guido, despite the fact that he is followed closely by many, is fundamentally a tabloid, mouth-breathing bottom-feeding muckraker. Nothing wrong with that, mind you, (and I follow him myself) and he has served (and served well) to expose much double-dealing and blatant hypocrisy. His campaign regarding Mr. Christopher Huhne is an exemplar in that respect.

    But this latest is a stretch. I know that the chances are that there is a majority in favour of the restitution of CP, but I suspect that this is not the issue, if you inspect the (tight) wording of the proposition.

    Which is quite clever…

  2. August 7, 2011 at 9:10 am

    On a slight tangent I saw a comment elsewhere, Skepticlawyer I think, that suggested that if the death penalty was ever brought back then when the inevitable wrongful convictions came to light the judge and prosecutor and possibly jury (not sure the commenter included that last one) who had condemned an innocent to die should all be put on death row. Doesn’t tackle my main concern but an interesting idea all the same. They were all complicit in the death of someone who didn’t deserve to die which sounds awfully like murder, and if murderers are being executed… Of course you’d probably not get very many death penalty verdicts if the people involved knew that they could end up in the same situation if they’d stuffed up, but possibly that’s what the commenter intended.

    • August 7, 2011 at 9:21 am

      Or as Samuel Johnson would have it, nothing concentrates a man’s mind such that he is to be hanged in the morning. A noose around the judge and jury’s necks will do very nicely, thank you. Do unto others as you will have done unto you, very neat. 😉

    • August 7, 2011 at 8:13 pm

      I take the view that everyone who opposes the death penalty is guilty whenever a convicted murderer kills again.

      It’s a numbers game. Where more innocent people executed when we had the death penalty than people murdered by those that would have hung f we still had the death penalty?

      • August 7, 2011 at 10:04 pm

        Oh, please!

        It is not a numbers game at all. What nonsense.

        • August 8, 2011 at 1:49 pm

          So your position is not based on public safety but a need to feel morally warm and cuddly.

          To me it is simple, hang em high. Unless of course it can be demonstrated that not hanging actually improves public safety. I do know that once you’ve hung them they don’t murder again. Can you give the same reassurance?

          • August 8, 2011 at 1:58 pm

            My position is based on not executing innocent people. The idea that some lives are less worthy so that they can be traded for the common good is pernicious. It has nothing to do with feeling warm and cuddly – just a basic sense of morality.

            Equally pernicious is the suggestion that those of us who disagree with you share the guilt of murderers. We do not. We are not responsible for sentencing policy.

            Life should mean life. I don’t recall Brady or Hindley re-offendeing, do you?

          • August 8, 2011 at 3:36 pm


            “One in three carried out a second murder even though they should have been under the supervision of the probation service.
            And another third had served less than five years for their original offence, the Home Office figures showed.”

            Of course life could mean life but that will never happen. Reintroduction of the death penalty is more likely.

            And finally deliberately letting a murderer kill again is as bad as hanging an innocent man. The sin of commission and omission are the same.

        • August 8, 2011 at 4:02 pm

          Reintroduction of the death penalty is more likely.

          What colour is the sky on your planet?

          And finally deliberately letting a murderer kill again is as bad as hanging an innocent man. The sin of commission and omission are the same.

          Not the same thing at all. That argument doesn’t work in reverse.

          If we allow the state the right to take our lives we can be absolutely sure it will take an innocent and in so doing, we are indulging in the greater good argument, that refuge used by tyrants throughout history.

          There is no guarantee that a killer will kill again – it depends on the circumstances of the original crime. But, then, I am not arguing for letting them free so it is irrelevant.

        • August 9, 2011 at 2:29 pm

          Quite. The idea that this is a numbers game is morally repugnant and would involve effectively giving the state the power to murder innocent individuals.

  3. JohnW
    August 7, 2011 at 9:17 am

    This does seem to be all show, as we acceded to the 13th Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms which prohibits us from legislating for the reintroduction of the death penalty.

    If our parliament wished to do so we would have to leave the Council of Europe (and hence the EU I expect.)

    • August 7, 2011 at 9:23 am

      Which may well be the subtext of Guido’s campaign. Assuming that I am crediting him with the requisite forethought and cleverness appropriately.

      • Robert Edwards
        August 7, 2011 at 10:17 am

        I agree. Whatever else he may be, he ain’t stupid.

        • August 7, 2011 at 7:38 pm

          Mmmmm. 😯 What evidence do you have for that?

  4. Jack Savage
    August 7, 2011 at 10:21 am

    Surely the most depressing thing in this issue is the huge number of people who still want the death penalty re-introduced. Abolishing it here was a major step forward in civilisation, in my view. That the USA (particularly!) and so many other countries still use it is pretty staggering, really. It is medieval!
    However, I do think that prisoners convicted for very long sentences ought to be given the option of a peaceful and pleasant euthanasia. I have no problem with people committing suicide out of remorse.
    Oh dear…I am going to hell, after all.

    • nisakiman
      August 7, 2011 at 1:21 pm

      One of the more bizarre paradoxes in those American states that still have the death penalty is the scenario where a gunman / killer is finally cornered and badly wounded while being arrested. He’s then rushed to A&E where they battle to save his life – so he can be tried, convicted and sentenced to death…

      As far as the death penalty itself is concerned, my own feeling is that it’s an act of barbarism that should have no place in an enlightened society. (Not that society is particularly enlightened, but you get my drift.)

      • August 7, 2011 at 3:05 pm

        Paradox it may be, but if he is not killed in the fire fight, to let him die would effectively pass the role of judge and jury to the police.

  5. LJHills
    August 7, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    Politicians, because they commit their crimes in public, against the whole taxpaying populace, are guilty beyond reasonable doubt. I suggest an experiment : if after hanging a tranche of the guiltiest, the survivors improve in probity and delivery, we can deem it a success and consider the judicial murder of serial killers. If not, we haven’t hung enough, and should delay extending it to mere murderers with their far more limited ability to hurt society.

  6. Peter Whale
    August 7, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    I agree that the death penalty should remain abolished but in the meantime how about giving non criminal citizens the right to bear arms within their own residence.

    • August 7, 2011 at 4:57 pm

      That’s the lynchpinand I’d go beyond “given the right” and say the wording should be “assert our right”.

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