50 years since the last execution can the UK help end the death penalty worldwide?



Dr Bharat Malkani

On the 50th anniversary of the last execution to take place in the UK, Dr Bharat Malkani, a lecturer in Birmingham Law School, explores why we are better off without the death penalty, and why British efforts to promote the worldwide abolition of capital punishment should be supported.

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Have your say

  • John Edge
    1. At 1:45PM on 14 August 2014, John Edge wrote

    Hi Bharat,

    I think many share the intuition that capital punishment is wrong. For me, stating just what is wrong is difficult. For instance, the death of an innocent is morally wrong (supposedly); but abolishing the death penalty merely postpones death and does not prevent it. God, nature and man himself end the lives of innocents daily. As for the (short) suffering of the condemned, this may be far less than that endured were an alternative punishment (e.g., life imprisonment) awarded instead. As for the cost to society, death is much cheaper than maintaining a prisoner in a cell for a long period. Nor would a prisoner sentenced to death ever be set free to kill again. There is much more to say, of course, but these are just a few thoughts.

  • Chris Hoad
    2. At 1:36PM on 15 August 2014, Chris Hoad wrote

    Some offenders would prefer the death penalty to a lifetime in prison. Ian Brady is a good example, who has begged at times for his life to be ended. And of course many offenders will go on to end their own lives, particularly where their crimes probably mean a lifetime in solitary confinement. And withholding the death penalty actually appeals to our sense of vengeance: "Hanging is too good for him" we say. "Throw away the key" or "let him rot in jail". We can almost feel that the death penalty is an easy way out for some offenders and that they should not be let off the hook so lightly. There have been miscarriages of justice with regards to the death penalty but we must not forget the enormous advances in forensic evidence that make this less and less likely. The issue is far from clear cut, but let us not presume that life imprisonment is always the most humane option. I'm sure there are plenty of innocents who have served 20 years plus.

    3. At 3:03AM on 16 August 2014, FERNANDO wrote

    I guess this topic is rather polemic to talk about, but the discussion over it is extremely necessary. On the one hand, we have to take into consideration the high costs that the convicted inflict on society. On the other hand, as it has been proved over history, mistakes have been made towards the condemned and the own legal system which is not fully exempt from wrongdoings. Said this, an alternative way to tackle the legal system and conviction should be adopted in all countries so as to preserve human rights - however, there is no easy solution to a difficult problem. Reflections and decisions over this situation must be exempt from private and financial interests.

  • Mohammed rofi Ahmed
    4. At 11:58PM on 18 August 2014, Mohammed rofi Ahmed wrote

    Interesting subject

    However I am a firm believer in " an eye for an eye! A tooth for a tooth !! And so forth, it is the lords given ruling to attain order within mankind and society

  • John Edge
    5. At 11:22AM on 19 August 2014, John Edge wrote


    Just a word about the above comment: 'an eye for an eye…' (Book of Exodus). This is the foundation of the so-called 'lex-talionis' or law of retaliation. Many take this to mean, simply, 'what you take you must give back'. Not necessarily so. It might just as well be interpreted as, 'for an eye you must give no more than an eye', implying that something less might be given. So, for a life you have taken, at most you must give a life, but not necessarily as much as a life. Anyway, a fascinating subject.