An Evaluation of the Impacts of Reintroducing the Death Penalty in the UK

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Introduction

Capital punishment was used in the United Kingdom until 1965. The final executions in the United Kingdom were by hanging, and took place in 1964, prior to capital punishment being abolished for murder shortly after. This was replaced by the murder act in 1965, which all charges of simple murder and all sentences of death were to be commuted to sentences of life imprisonment.

I am studying this topic to look at whether it would benefit the UK to reintroduce capital punishment to the UK. I will look at how crime rates have increased since 1965 and how they have increased rapidly in the last few years. For example, 2018 was London’s worst year in almost a decade reaching 134 homicides. This has showed no sight of ending that in just the first six hours 2 people were fatally stabbed. I will look at whether capital punishment could deter crime and help solve this problem of rapidly increasing crime or if this is just a misunderstood theory and would actually make no difference. There is evidence which supports both ideas and also statistics which show how quickly crime rates are increasing and how this is becoming a big and uncontrollable problem for the Uk, hence why some believe capital punishment is a final solution.

This is one of the reasons why my project is extremely important as these crime rates which are increasing is scary for the younger population of the Uk. I have lots of reliable research to show why this is such a big problem and why something must be done in order to stop this and reduce these rates. Some believe that capital punishment will do this however there is also lots of research to show why this may not be the best solution. I have specialised all of my research on capital punishment and the ethics around it. For example, reasons for and against including all of the ethical reasons which is a main disadvantage for capital punishment. I will be extending my research further by getting more sources from written sources to support each side.

I will be discussing and using evidence as far back as the late 1900’s as I will be comparing how crime rates have increased since then and why. I will be covering statistics only from the Uk as my overall topic is about reintroducing capital punishment into the UK. It is a social and economic argument as it could cost a lot for the Uk to bring back and continuously use the death penalty but also social as there are ethical reasons against it and how this affects people. My overall piece of writing will have important factors spoken about in detail and how they could be an advantage and a disadvantage, I will then speak about other pros and cons to support the argument.

Crime rates within the UK and their increase

Over the last 4 years’ crime rates have increased drastically. From 2016-2017 it was reported that overall police crime rose by 14% and overall knife crime rose by 21%. Crime rates are increasing more and more as the years go on and there has been a steady increase since 2014. Over 40,000 offences involving a knife were recoded throughout the whole of 2018. This information was released by the UK police and therefore shows the amount of offences recorded. However, they also recorded that armed robbery also rose by 4% from 2016 meaning that overall crime is also on the rise.

This is continuously getting worse that just at the beginning of 2018 from January to April over 1299 stabbings were reported only in London. These incidents were happening everywhere around London from parks and busy streets but even in people’s own homes. A lot of these stabbings are fatal and are happening not only at night but at all times of the day after a stabbing was recorded at 3pm on June 11th 2018. These figures are so high and are continuously increasing, over 70 murders came from stabbings and there were 135 homicides throughout the whole of 2018. These reports were released by the UK metropolitan police and show how crime rates are at a peak high in the UK and how this is an ongoing problem. This is extremely worrying for the UK and why the question what can actually be done to stop this is being discussed further as the days go on.

Since 2019 this has still continued after 2 people were fatally stabbed within the first six hours of the UK and as the months go on more and more are happening this is extremely worrying. There have already been over 20 fatalities from stabbings in the UK from the beginning of 2019 to the 1st March 2019. These reports are supported by many different articles which highlight just how frightening and dangerous these statistics are and brings back the frequent question which is why are these crime rates increasing so quickly and what can be done to stop them?

The cost of the death penalty

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When the subject of the death penalty is spoken about the cost is always a factor which is considered very highly. In countries that still use the death penalty such as America the cost of the death penalty is substantially high. A 2003 legislative audit in Kansas, Texas found that the estimated cost of a death penalty case was 70% more than the cost of a comparable non-death penalty case. It was noted that the cost of a death penalty case can reach up to $1.26 million, whereas a non-death penalty case is estimated at around $700,000. The greatest costs associated with the death penalty occur prior to and during trial, not in post-conviction proceedings. Even if all appeals were abolished, the death penalty would still be more expensive than alternative sentences.

People argue that if less money was spent on the death penalty in the USA more money could be spent on important things such as crime prevention, mental health treatment, education and rehabilitation, meaningful victims’ services, and drug treatment programs. These reports were released by experts in the boulder county, Colorado. Furthermore, it has been noted that if California were to abolish the death penalty they could save up to $90 million per year. These extra costs come from extra measures taken in judicial proceedings, lawyer fees, extended trials, and expert witnesses. There was also an alarming statistic in the US which showed that a cost estimate from 1973 to 2011 shows that the cost to U.S. taxpayers for 8,300 death sentences has been $25 billion. Therefore, even if some tax payers are against the death penalty they still have to pay taxes to contribute towards this. This was all released by California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice. They are professional experts who state the facts on how much money the death penalty costed and how these expenses could be spent on other things.

Here we can see that those who are in favour of keeping the death penalty abolished in the UK can use the argument that it will cost the UK a large amount of money to reintroduce the death penalty due to all the extra fees and therefore less money would be available for the development of other projects. A proportion of all taxes paid will contribute to the cost of the death penalty which will cause lots of conflict for those are against it as essentially they are paying towards it. This shows that essentially all taxpayers pay towards taking the life of another human which is also wrong.

Ethics and morality

Every human has a right to life. ‘Every human being has the inherent right to life.’ This is stated in the article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. For those in favour of keeping the death penalty abolished will use this point as their strongest argument, the death penalty is ethically wrong and is a decimation of someone’s human rights. Every human is entitled to this right even those who murder, and therefore a sentence to death rather than a sentence to life in prison is violating these rights and is therefore wrong. The counter argument to this is that a person can forfeit these rights with their actions, for example murdering another person. Here a smaller argument is created and the question about whether a person should keep their human right to life is debated. Although they have taken a life themselves and violated someone else’s human rights should they keep their own?

The death penalty is the ending to one’s life and it is a fact that there is no ‘humane’ way to kill. Most methods now used around the world are very much brutal and horrible, these include: hanging, shooting and beheading. The nature of these deaths only continues to spread the cycle of violence and may not ease the pain already suffered by the victims’ family. In 2006 a more ‘humane’ way was attempted which involved a lethal injection. However, doctors have concluded that it took 34 minutes and required 2 injections meaning that it would have been an incredibly painful death. This supports the idea that it is inhumane and wrong but also the idea that 2 wrongs do not make a right.

Furthermore, some people believe that although it is brutal it is a fair and allows justice. ‘To sentence killers to less than death would fail to do justice because the penalty – presumably a long period in prison – would be grossly disproportionate to the heinousness of the crime.’ This was stated by Edward Feser, PhD, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Pasadena City College. It is also a fact that the death penalty is prioritised for the most brutal and conscienceless murderers. It is a false theory that it is by a chance that someone is selected but instead is a filter that selects the worst of the worst. This again suggests that it is fair and does present the justice and punishment that is truly deserved. This brings about huge debate which is whether a criminal who has murdered should keep their life or if they should receive the fair punishment of their own life being taken.

Execution of the innocent

The most common argument which is spoken about when talking about the death penalty is that sooner or later mistakes will be made and mistakes must have been made over the years. This meaning that innocent people can lose their lives in some cases which is wrong and unjust. It is decided by a unanimous jury of 12 citizens who must decide the death verdict after an exhaustive trial where the accused murderer is represented by two highly competent attorneys and overseen by an independent judge who ensures a fair trial. It is common for people to make mistakes and this could easily happen. Furthermore, if a mistake is made and an innocent person is killed this decision cannot be changed it is done and it will remain like that. There is lots of evidence that such mistakes are possible: in the USA, 130 people sentenced to death have been found innocent since 1973 and released from death row. However, on average a person will remain on death row for 11 years before actually killed therefore people argue there is enough time for the person to be proven innocent and in most cases the right decision is made and those who are killed have actually committed the crime of murder.

Fear factor

One reason supporters of the capital punishment are for death penalty is its effectiveness as a crime deterrent. According to the advocates for death sentencing, potential criminals will be scared to suffer such harsh punishment and as a result, they will be hesitant to commit crimes like murder. This could therefore lead to a fall in total crimes especially murders committed which would be great for the UK seeing as they are increasing year by year.

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