Thursday, 24 September 2009

The Death Penalty

What sparked me off to write this blog was a cause on Facebook, basically saying that the people who perpetrated this outrageous and evil act should face the death penalty (polite version).  And what was this act?

  • Baby P had FIFTY injuries and bruises when he was seen by a doctor 2 days b4 he died, he had a broken back
  • 8 fractured ribs and was paralysed from the waist down, how this was missed I cannot imagine.
  • Baby P was found hollow cheeked with his hair shaved off-he died in his own blood spattered cot hours after he was punched so hard in the mouth
  • he swallowed a bottom tooth.
  • That was probably the blow that finally killed him causing a neck injury that affected his breathing.

I do not advocate taking life, a punishment, not revenge, must relate to the crime. However, a murder and torture (in any shape or form) of a child, let alone an adult, should be punished accordingly so that firstly the perpetrator of such a heinous crime is indeed punished, and set away from society so that other potential victims are protected, and secondly such a punishment must be an effective deterrent to others who might be led to carry out such crimes. Though deterrent must not be the first reason to implement a set punishment. Otherwise you will be back in Victorian times of being deported for stealing a loaf of bread to feed your starving family – the punishment does not fit the crime, but it could be considered a deterrent!

Of course, sadly, there will always be wicked and evil perpetrators and no thought of any kind of punishment will defer or affect them – and what do you do with such people when they are finally, in the name of justice, caught? But maybe, just maybe, it will deter those who think that a few years in prison is worth the 'pleasure’ they get from their heinous crimes. For in truth there are few people who serve out, or who are given, long term prison sentences for murder. There should be no exception to the rule. Life should mean life, not five, ten or twenty years. Because when people who have committed such acts of murder and cruelty against another are released back into society, having served their ‘punishment’ or been let out early because of ‘good behaviour’, the cost of new identities for such people is a burden on us all – as tax payers it cost us in money and as people it costs us in fear. What if they have not repented – realised and accepted they acted wrongly? What if the psychoanalysts and such have got it wrong or had the wool pulled over their eyes? What therefore if they are out about in society free to act in the same way against other people, to “strike again” so to speak?

The fear factor is most apparent when you consider that not only are these cruel, callous, indifferent, if not dangerous, people not locked up for life but that they are allowed out to have ‘time out’! And even more appalling is that “the number of dangerous people who have absconded from the police during their ‘time out’ of prison is astounding”:

Nearly 1,000 offenders who should have been sent back to prison are still at large, according to Justice Secretary Jack Straw. They include 19 convicted murderers who have not been returned to custody. BBC News Channel Monday 6 July 2009

It is also a slap in the face to those who have lost friends and loved ones to such evil. And what a slap in the face it is for the victims family and friends when murders are given freedom from a sentence, or completing their sentence (never mind the fact that the length of sentence is pitiful considering the crime), because of so called compassionate reasons:

Lockerbie Convict. U.S. politicians and families of U.S. victims of the Lockerbie bombing were uniformly outraged and dismayed by the Scottish government's decision to release Abdelbaset al-Megrahi to Libya on compassionate grounds. (see above link or

Ben White, of and says: Scottish justice minister Kenny MacAskill is, in the eyes of many who see the world primarily through the lens of vengeance (either because of their suffering, or less creditably because of their worldview), a scoundrel or a fool. But there is surely genuine courage and insight in his way of trying to weigh the true odds: “Our justice system demands that judgement be imposed but compassion be available. Our beliefs dictate that justice be served but mercy be shown.”  “The perpetration of an atrocity and outrage cannot and should not be a basis for losing sight of who we are, the values we seek to uphold, and the faith and beliefs by which we seek to live” – Kenny MacAskill (see Faith and beliefs by which we seek to live by).

Justice, compassion and mercy are strange bedfellows, out of mercy Megrahi was sent home to spend the last months of his family, he has a terminal illness. Is this justified as mercy or compassion towards another human being, evil and unrepentant of his actions as he maybe? Though he claims he is innocent. Is the outrage against his release based on revenge? I think it is, but it is also based on the wish to see justice and punishment served. Sad that Megrahi has a terminal illness and apparently only months to live. What if he outlives those given months and it turns into years – it can happen, has been known to happen. Not everybody dies when they are ‘supposed’ to. The following link finding mercy difficult to stomach is worth reading for a different point of view. I think the MacAskill did a compassion thing, and that must be good, but whether it was a right thing to do leaves a dilemma, was this a political manoeuvre, to pacify or court Libya, or a real role of state compassion? Would he have had the same compassion on a Hindley or a Bradly? They took little lives knowingly, without mercy, so does a terrorist.

Though I believe forgiveness and justice are part of the same parcel, compassion to refrain from ensuring a punishment is completed is out of place when a evil is done; surely the Lockerbie bomber is evil in the sense he had no compassion as to who would be hurt by his actions; nor the people who torture and abuse babies, children (see Baby P above) and adults? For instance who can forget the Jamie Bulger murders:

On February 12, 1993 a small boy who was to turn three in March was taken from a shopping mall in Liverpool by two 10 year old boys. Jamie Bulger walked away from his mother for only a second and Jon Venables took his hand and led him out of the mall with his friend Robert Thompson. They took Jamie on a walk for over 2 and a half miles, along the way stopping every now and again to torture the poor little boy who was crying constantly for his mommy. Finally they stopped at a railway track where they brutally kicked him, threw stones at him, rubbed paint in his eyes and pushed batteries up his anus.

It was actually worse than this. What these two boys did was so horrendous that Jamie's mother was forbidden to identify his body. They then left his beaten small body on the tracks so a train could run him over to hide the mess they had created. These two boys, even being boys understood what they did was wrong, hence trying to make it look like an accident.

Those two boys are now grown men living their lives as they want with hopes and ambitions. They were granted lifelong anonymity by the High Court of England in January, 2001 and released in the summer of that year. They are free to love and start their own families. Are they are danger to their little ones? The women they have babies with do not know their history their awful evil background. Are they safe?

I am aware that those who do such evil may indeed repent of their crime, and have to live with the guilt of their actions all their lives, and maybe some of those who do such evil will also come to faith in the Lord, a chance they maybe would not have had if they were dead. But in the reality of such violent crimes now on the increase maybe a like for like punishment has to be involved. I am not talking about manslaughter here, but murder and systematic torture, that may also lead to manslaughter, but which invariably relates to premeditated murder.

In lieu of 'turn the other cheek', as a Christian, I have always seen it in relating to our enemies who commit crimes against us as individuals. We, society, need to, I think, have in place a punishment that fits the crime, which may in turn deter and could protect those who can not voluntarily turn the other cheek - or defend themselves. As long as the criminal sees punishment as a joke, something to get out of the way so they can get on with their life – newly converted or remorseful or not - then we have a problem. If they know that they will serve the set time in prison as a given, if they know that to kill someone will result in them forfeiting their life, then maybe it will not be seen as a joke, a peer one-up- manship. Their freedom to live as a free citizen should be curtailed as their crime befits them.

I have no right to forgive someone for their action against another – nor do I believe has a judge or priest – only God can do that. I can only work towards supporting a punishment for a crime that is both just and reflective of the crime committed, not on revenge or anger. Vengeance is best left to God. I can only suggest that a punishment is not arbitrated away through good behaviour, or saying I’m sorry I’m a good boy, or woman, now, let me go and I’ll be a good citizen, have compassion and mercy on me etc. etc. Yes I am being factious here. Where was the compassion and mercy and care and concern when the murderous and brutal perpetrator was carrying out their behaviour upon others? A punishment has to be served out.

Of course this blog is about capital punishment – the death penalty – and there is no scope here to discuss prison reform, treatment of prisoners such as those who are deemed criminally insane or those who have committed crimes out of revenge or passion, a one off reaction to a life event. Or even about the fact that maybe some crimes should not be prison offenses but community work related ‘punishments’. There may indeed be cases where capital punishment is not an applicable punishment – but that is for another blog another day.

For a Christian biblical point of view for capital punishment see Steve Rudd and Probe Ministries.

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