Tuesday, 22 June 2010

On the rope

The subject of capital punishment has been doing the rounds, giving everyone the opportunity to unpack their old opinions and shake them for moths. I've got slightly involved. Who knows, maybe I started it? (Correction: it was of course the firing squad in Utah. How could I forget?) In truth, it's not really a live issue (ahem), but I stumbled upon this apposite quote from the autobiography of Albert Pierrepoint, the famous hangman, the last part of which certainly rings true:

"I have come to the conclusion that executions solve nothing, and are only an antiquated relic of a primitive desire for revenge which takes the easy way and hands over the responsibility for revenge to other people...

The trouble with the death penalty has always been that nobody wanted it for everybody, but everybody differed about who should get off
."

7 comments:

Longrider said...

Excellent quote and from someone qualified to make it. I agree with him entirely.

James Higham said...

Funny about that - we were discussing the best method today.

Trooper Thompson said...

Longrider,

I keep forgetting, I'm supposed to be in favour. I am in principle, insofar as I believe certain people should be executed, but it may well be that in practice it would be a mistake.

James,

I think hanging is the best method, although if it was me, I'd definitely opt for firing squad.

girl x said...

I certainly wouldn't want a lethal injection. I'd rather they shoved a bottle of sleeping pills down my throat.

Trooper Thompson said...

Now, that would be cruel and unusual.

Anonymous said...

The actual death penalty isn't the problem is it?

The problem is that we can't trust our police to arrest the person wot dunnit and our rotten judiciary to convict the actual perpetrator. Then there's the issue of self defence (AKA "taking the law into your own hands") - kill a burglar and swing for it....?

Much effort is expended on redundant vehement wittering about the rights and wrongs of capital punishment when it's obvious we can't trust our public employees to actually do their jobs competently and honestly and we can't remove those who are failing.

Capital punishment is being trawled again as a huge stinking red herring.

Trooper Thompson said...

Red herring, perhaps, but we've all got an opinion. It's good to open it to the air once in a while, let it breathe.

The judiciary is only rotten through the rottenness of the laws. If the law weren't so rotten, I'd say our judiciary would be among the best in the world, and our police amongst the least corrupt, if the laws could be returned to sanity.

"Kill a burglar and swing for it".

It is the responsibility of the petty jury to stop miscarriages of this kind. That's us.

We all know the law needs reform, the death penalty issue throws light on what is wrong with it. You say we couldn't do it because we can't trust the state. Fair point, one we all know.

There is also the moral question - the rightness of the state employing capital punishment; the rightness of killing someone who deserves it, who we would have killed for sure up until the last half of the 20th century.

That is either a yes or no, everyone has their own opinion one way or the other. Then you encounter the dilemma Pierrepoint mentions; who to let off.

But it is the one you stress which requires our efforts to change: the reasons we can't trust the state and the laws to do what we expect them to do. Not so we can then reinstitute the rope but because this reform is necessary to improve the functioning of our law and our society.