Capital Punishment

Capital Punishment
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In order to shed light on an earnest topic of the extent to which capital punishment should be deliberated as a suitable punishment for very serious offences, it is imperative to understand what is meant by capital offence in general. This essay shall discuss some common definitions and basic facts about capital offences and then a few examples of some of the major crimes designated as a capital offense by the acting of the United Kingdom. This shall be followed by various theories of punishment and the advantages and disadvantages of implementing capital offenses in respect to those perspectives. The main argument of this essay shall be that capital punishment should not be the sole castigation in response to the major crimes taking place in the country based on the fact that this act fails to serve the purpose of deterrence and rehabilitation of criminals. Throughout the essay, the focus of the discussion shall be the law designated by the United Kingdom in essence to a capital offence and capital punishment. It is, therefore, the aim of this essay to contemplate critically the recent arguments in favour and against the practice of capital punishment while still adhering to the arguments that probate the acceptability of this extremist act of punishment in this modern society.

What are Capital offence and Capital punishment?

A capital offence is a type of criminal act that is punishable by death. On the other hand, capital punishment, synonymously called “the death penalty”, has always been a debated topic of discussion among scholars since its introduction into the judicial system. This type of extremist punishment has been one of the most common types of punishment since ancient history[1]. However, with the passage of time and as a result of various amendments in the judicial laws, this type of punishment has either been excluded, ameliorated or is still undiminished. This is the reason why this form of punishment has always been a hot topic for scholars and lawyers that whether its pros outweigh the cons and if it should be a part of the national judicial system or not. The argumentative era of capital punishment was ignited by Cesare Beccaria when he wrote an essay On “Crime and Punishments” in 1764[2]. He argued on the optimistic and undesirable impressions of capital punishment for capital crimes not only on the criminals’ mental rehabilitation but also on society as well. It has been implicated industriously by many countries except for a few that have been recently established. Since the date of its official inclusion in the global judicial system of law, there have been enormous arguments and counterarguments on this controversial state of punishment. The propriety of this sanction was the beginning of the 19th century in the United States of America[3]. There are different methods in countries all over the world to execute the death penalty. Hanging is the most common method, while the rest of the methods include injecting a lethal solution and electrocution. In some parts of the globe, stoning, beheading, and gun shooting is also been practised for executing criminals.

The governments of many countries try to be tough in making their laws. Hence they ought to choose very strong and cruel punishments for the criminal offenders, yet at the same time, there are policymakers and government workers who fight and oppose this state of law. Such as in a qualitative study performed by Diana L. Falco, it was revealed that strong public support in the United States of America is the sole reason why this punishment is still in practice in its criminal justice system[4].


Capital punishment is only implicated for criminals who are involved in some kind of major and serious offences such as any sort of assassination or national betrayal.

Although, since the start beginning of the 20th century, there has been a major decline in the implementation of the death penalty, there are parts of the world where it is still applicable. Countries like Iran, Botswana, China, Egypt, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Ira, U.S., Thailand, Pakistan, Singapore, Somalia, South Sudan, Belarus, Yemen, Japan, Sudan, North Korea are still documented as ‘states practising the death penalty. There have been various occasions where this form of punishment has been implicated by many countries in order to demonstrate the extreme consequences when people break the law of the state in which they live [5].

Death Penalty in the United Kingdom (UK)


In the early 1500s, around eight crimes were designated to be capital offences such as national betrayal, petty treason, unlawful killing of any person, theft, rape, conflagration and robbery[6]. Later on, with time as a result of various amendments such as “Murder Act 1752” if someone was condemned of murder, then he was awarded the death penalty within the next 48 hours. Then in 1965, “the House of Commons” agreed to append capital punishment for the upcoming five years, but then it was overruled by the “House of Lords” of the UK parliament. Then came the 1998 amendment when the “Human Rights Act 1998” added the “European Convention of Human Rights (ICCPR)”[7] into the law of the United Kingdom, leading to the complete eradication of capital punishment law except in conditions of war or any coming up danger of the war. It is tracked by the enactment of protocol 13 in the year 2002 which placed an embargo on the death penalty in both situations of war and non-war scenarios.

The practice of administrating the death penalty for criminals who had been convicted with any sort of capital punishment is completely abolished, yet however, many Commonwealth jurisdictions still use the death penalty, whereas “the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council” in London is designated as the final appeal in response to such cases[8].

Point of difference

When the death penalty is ordered for a criminal in response to a capital offence, the judge calls for it as “hand till death”. This means that the criminal is hung until he has been declared. There are schools of thought who consider this act a complete abolishment of human rights and completely unethical. They consider the death penalty as “a little more than state-sponsored” murder and equally immoral when compared to the crime itself. While there are other groups of people that strongly support the act of death penalty as a correctional act for the crimes in society. These two different thinking processes are the reason why the concept of death punishment is still an arguable debate[9].

The negative aspects of capital punishment

The argument of lowering of crime rate with the implication of judicial law is completely negated by the fact that there are several studies whose results prove that there is no link between the crime rate and capital punishment. According to a US report done by the “National Research Council” in the year 2012, it concludes that “Research to date on the effect of capital punishment on homicide is not informative about whether capital punishment decreases, increases, or has no effect on homicide rates”[10]. If the main aim of implicating the death penalty is not fulfilled, then there is no gain in violating human rights and taking the life of a human being under the name of the ‘law’. Hence, even though capital punishment is almost the most serious type of punishment, it fails to serve one important purpose of capital punishment, which is the deterrent effect. Therefore, capital punishment should not be deemed appropriate. Secondly, on the aspect of rehabilitation, it is evident that capital punishment does not serve this purpose of rehabilitation since it is ultimate and does not return the criminals to society, let alone offer the criminals education for the purpose of rehabilitation. The purpose of rehabilitating a criminal is to transform him into a somewhat better human being and make him able to step into society with a better mind but after the implication of the death penalty, there is no use left behind his rehabilitation as he would not be able to return to the society anyhow. If a criminal could be rehabilitated, but he got executed, then the goal of rehabilitation cannot be achieved.

More importantly, the fact that the capital-punishment is considered as a violation of human rights, which is cruel and inhumane should not be underestimated. While it might be true that capital punishment can have deterrence effects, it is often argued by different states that it is inhumane- the reason why it was abolished in so many countries across the Globe. “Amnesty International” is pitted against the death penalty as the “violation of fundamental human rights – the right to life and the right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment. Both of these rights are recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, other international and regional human rights instruments and national constitutions and laws.”[11] In the “The Human Rights Act 1998”, it is clearly stated that “everyone’s right to life shall be protected by law and no one shall be deprived of his life intentionally save in the execution of a sentence of a court following his conviction of a crime for which this penalty is provided by law.”[12] This transparently shows that it is in complete contradiction with the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights”[13]; hence the enactment of capital punishment or death penalty is the defilement of basic human rights altogether. Moreover, it is worth noting that the theory of deterrence is only applicable to persons with sound minds and consciousness. Many capital criminalities are committed in such an expressive state that the committer didn’t think about the probable penalties. Also, it is unknown whether other types of penalties, for instance, life imprisonment, would be more deterrent, which shows that there is no necessity to carry out capital punishment.

It is the point of common sense that if a person with a sound mind and emotional state is punished even with a small punishment, he would eventually become fearful, whereas on the other hand, if an emotionally and mentally disturbed person is punished even with the extremist of punishments, he would still be a brick wall in understanding the core purpose of the punishment. Hence, even though capital punishment is almost the most thoughtful type of punishment, it fails to serve one important purpose of capital punishment, which is the deterrent effect. Therefore, capital punishment should not be deemed appropriate. Additionally, it should be noted that no matter or form of argument makes capital punishment humane in any case. It is worth noting that capital punishment because serious bodily and psychological injury to a convict by exposing him or her to mock executions and electric shocks, and the mental health of the criminal would be affected even before the execution. There is no doubt that this form of punishment is, to extreme extent ad, irreversible; it is completely of inhumane nature and totally unjust if the criminals were in fact, innocent. Because according to a study done in the US, however, 4.1% of all offenders penalized to death in the United States in the recent era are acquitted.[14] Moreover, capital punishment could be unjust.

The famous case of Derek Bentley shows that there would be wrong judgment, and the innocent could be executed, which makes capital punishment an inappropriate measure. In this case, “Derek Bentley was hanged on the 28th of January 1953, at the age of 19, and the above words appear on his gravestone. On the 30th of July 1998, the Appeal Court finally ruled (after 45 years of campaigning by his father, Sister Iris and since Iris’ death the previous year, by her daughter, Maria Bentley Dingwall), that his conviction was unsafe.”[15] This case clearly states one nature of capital punishment – it is irreversible and could easily cause injustice.

Some may argue that the Derek Bentley case is long ago and is not updated. In addition, the use of DNA and forensic evidence in this day and age could be used to ensure that justice is brought. There are so many incidents reported that capital punishment was declared for criminals solely based on political purposes. There are enormous cases reported on Amnesty International that the death penalty was unfairly declared for so many people with torture marks and with insufficient legal demonstration.[16] Moreover, in several countries, capital punishment is executed as the compulsory penalty for several crimes which means that the adjudicators are not able to deliberate the settings of the crime or of the perpetrator before penalizing. This might thus lead to injustice stature among the community and the society overall.

Positive aspects of capital punishment

People argue in favour of the implication and enactment of capital punishment that it serves the main purpose of the punishment- the deterrent effect. Deterrence refers to the act of using a threat of action to prevent an individual of society from committing a crime. Hence by the enactment of this law, people would be more fearful of the crimes they commit and will remain mindful of the tough and strict judicial law. Another reason for supporting capital punishment is that people consider that implicating the death penalty is a source of rehabilitation for criminals mentally and physically. With the deterrent theory in mind, criminals would act more sensibly and would, understand the seriousness of the state of law they are held in and ultimately strive to become a better people. People consider it to have a good effect on the criminal mind as it will have a positive effect on their mind. Some may argue that there are already some restrictions on capital punishment which makes it more humane and moral. For example, in the US, there was a landmark case court called Ford v. Wainwright in 1986, which clearly stated that criminals with mental illness- insanity cannot be executed since an insane prisoner don’t apprehend the determination of his or her penalty, The execution of such an individual has no retaliatory or preventive consequence, thus immoral. In addition, it was held by “the Supreme Court in the case of Atkins v Virginia” in the year 2002 that criminals with intellectual infirmities couldn’t be executed as they are not as much of capable as normal people. To examine whether capital punishment can serve this purpose, it is important to understand how and to what extent this supporter of capital punishment would argue that By that, it means that there would be fewer criminal activities and a lower crime rate and could cause social benefits. No matter what the purpose is behind the kind of punishment that is being ordered, the effect is considered to be positive as it all depends upon the people.

Children and capital punishment

Another aspect of this case is that criminals who are underaged children should never be subjected to this extreme of punishment. In fact, by statistics, At least 97 children have been awarded the death penalty in Iran since 1990[17]. Whereas at least 145 executions of children have happened in Sudan, Nigeria, Yemen, China and the United States. There is always light at the end of the tunnel, and no one knows when there is a sudden turn of events in a child’s life, and he is brought back to normal life. Moreover, the rehabilitation concept of criminals fits completely in the case of child criminology. There is a whole life in front of the child, and the different sessions of therapy and rehabilitation can bring a positive turn in his life.

The economical aspect of capital and non-capital punishment

There has been a great deal of discussion recently about the economical aspect of capital punishment. It has been stated that although the cost of the capital offence trial is itself overweening, the cost of maintaining a prisoner behind the appeal of death row is as equivalent as the former case in an economical perspective. As death is considered to be different for everyone, there are prisoners who appeal for an extended date of their trial is a matter of consideration when talking about the economical point of view. Both the capital and non-capital punishments the cost of prosecution, Law enforcement, judges, courts, corrections[18] and, in the case of impecunious defendants who have to hire defenders offered by the government all of these are the sources that costs no matter what. A sudden turn of events shows that capital punishment more than the non-capital punishment. So many aspects exist during the course of hearings and case representations in the court whether it be a criminal with private lawyers or criminals who cannot afford the lawyers and they are hired by the government to them.

Capital punishment is the bitter reality of this world and has its positive and negative aspects at the same time. There are people who consider it to be just and a high authority force that has the power to bring people onto the right path whereas there are catholic and modern world thinkers that equally negates the idea of this concept. This type of burdensome punishment completely violates the basic human rights. It snatches the right of one to live and gives this authority to the government who gets to decide whether he lives or not. The certainty of death penalty in UK should be considered and it should be evaluated how dangerous it is for the citizens and government of UK. A revision of state policies should be done to assess how the reappearance of crime that is currently penalized can be stopped and necessary steps should be taken to eradicate the crime from its roots rather than unsuccessfully controlling it by violating human rights by ordering death penalty. As inhumane as it is, death penalty should be eradicated by all means and there should be some sort of cost-effective alternatives that can replace the harsh and extremist consequences of it.

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