[Deathpenalty]death penalty news --- worldwide
j_sommer at gmx.net
Thu Dec 16 11:41:13 CST 2004
death penalty news
December 16, 2004
On This Day: 1969: MPs vote to abolish hanging
MPs have voted by a big majority for the permanent abolition of the death
penalty for murder.
A great cheer went up in the Commons as the final result was announced
shortly before midnight. The voting was 343 in favour, 185 against, a
majority of 158, to permanently end hanging in Britain.
The decision came at the end of a seven-and-a-half hour debate which saw
the Labour Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, the Conservative leader, Edward
Heath, and Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe go through the same lobby to
Under the terms of the Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act 1965 hanging
was suspended for an experimental period of five years. Today's result
means it is now unlikely to be brought back.
Earlier, Tory MP for Streatham in south London, Duncan Sandys, presented a
petition to parliament calling for the return of hanging. He claimed to
have as many as a million signatures.
Home Secretary James Callaghan opened today's debate. He told a packed
House the number of murders in Britain had varied between a low of 114 and
a peak of 154 over the years between 1957 and 1968.
He concluded: "These figures show that the murder rate is not soaring as a
result of the abolition of capital punishment but remains remarkably stable."
But there was criticism from Tory benches of the government's decision to
press ahead with the debate before five year suspension laid down in the
1965 Act had expired.
The Opposition Spokesman on Home Affairs, Quintin Hogg, said although he
could not prove it statistically, "there are people dead today who might
have been alive if the law had been different.
"There are also people alive today who would, if the law stayed the same,
be dead within the next 10 years."
Mr Callaghan admitted there had been a rise in the growth of violent crime
in Britain and he wished to initiate some research into the likely causes.
He believed such research would offer more long-term hope to society than
the despair of returning to hanging as a method of deterring violence.
Mr Sandys argued that public opinion strongly supported the return of the
death penalty as a better deterrent than a spell in prison.
He said: "We have a duty to give the fullest consideration to the clearly
expressed wishes of those we represent.
"We have no right to assume that the firmly held views of the overwhelming
majority of the British people are unworthy and misguided."
Conservatives were split between the two lobbies. Although Mr Heath voted
in favour, a number of other senior figures like Mr Hogg and the former
prime minister Sir Alec Douglas-Home voted against.
Three Labour backbenchers voted against the motion.
quote: "Those figures show that the murder rate is not soaring as a result
of the abolition of capital punishment but remains remarkably stable." -
Home Secretary James Callaghan
The House of Lords voted two days later in favour of abolishing the death
By a majority of 46, peers supported an end to hanging. An amendment which
would have extended the suspension of capital punishment for a further
three years was defeated.
It was clear peers' minds had been made up by the decision of all three
party leaders in the Commons to vote for abolition.
However, the death penalty was retained for offences like treason and
piracy with violence until 1998. As a result the gallows remained in place
at Wandsworth Prison.
In 1999 the home secretary signed the sixth protocol of the European
Convention of Human Rights which formally abolished the death penalty in
the UK and ensured it could not be brought back.
Figures for 2003 show there are 83 countries in the world which retain the
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