First I must declare my belief that punishment for any and all crimes should be aimed first at the protection of society and second the punishment of the offender rather than any attempt at his or her rehabilitation. I also strongly believe that there are now so many billions of human beings that the killing of a tiny minority of them to preserve the fabric of society should be seen as no more important than the deaths of so many thousands in car ‘accidents’ that are generally the result of something other than mere chance. Though it may be seen as something of an old-fashioned notion, it must be appreciated that if a person has a soul, the execution of the short-term physical vessel in which it resides will merely return the immortal soul to God or the next cycle of existence, and if a person does not have a soul then it matters little in ‘the great scheme of things’ whether or not he or she dies.
Within this overall context, I believe that the correct punishment for crimes of premeditated violence should be death, with the penalty to be meted out swiftly but humanely through the organisation of a special and dedicated trial and appeal process.
What is a crime of premeditated violence? The most obvious answer is a crime which results in the death of a person, with greed (in any of its senses) and/or personal profit as the perpetrator’s primary motivation. The clearest example of this type of crime is cold-blooded murder either directly for profit or indirectly in the course of another crime that nonetheless results in someone’s death.
It is arguable, though, that the death penalty should not be limited just to crimes of this nature. Take, for example, the case of an armed robbery even when the crime does not result in a fatality. Yet the very fact that the robber has gone out to commit the crime with a weapon that can be used to kill, and whose possession is designed to persuade the victim that the criminal is indeed willing to kill, indicates that the criminal is indeed in the frame of mind to kill. The possession of a weapon during the commission of such a crime is sufficient, therefore, to persuade me that the death penalty is the right sentence for the armed robber.
Another type of offence for which the death penalty seems appropriate is any sexual crime including violence. This should be construed as including the use of force in rape, the use of drugs to remove or at least reduce the victim’s capacity to refuse, and every form of sexual attack on a child. This last type of victim lacks the physical or moral strength to fight off or deny his or her attacker, whose reliance on greater size and strength should be seen as direct evidence of the willingness to use force.
The re-adoption of the death penalty and its imposition for a wider range of crimes are fully justifiable in moral terms, I believe. They would also exercise have a strong deterrent effect on a certain stratum of criminals and, almost as a side effect, reduce the prison population. Spin-off benefits of this last would be a reduction in the prison building programme and the huge cost of keeping this type of prisoner locked away for many years.
The reimposition and wider use of the death penalty would have to be accompanied, I believe, by the creation of a new type of court specialising in crimes for which the death penalty would be the default sentence for a guilty verdict. The current court system is bloated and wholly inefficient, as shown by the fact that trials for matters such as perjury and fraud can last for many months and cost the taxpayer many millions of pounds for the trial alone. New courts for the trial of capital crimes should be, and could be, far more efficient if the cases against and for the accused were stripped down to their basic features and presented to the members of the jury without emotive argument. Here it would be the responsibility of the judge to control the process tightly and ensure that common sense prevailed.
The case would thus be heard before a judge specialising in capital crime, with the jury finding for or against the defendant just as at present. A guilty verdict from the jury should result in the death sentence unless the judge has any compelling reason, such as anything more than some one twentieth degree of realistic doubt for example, to substitute a long custodial sentence. The case and its sentence would be referred automatically to a special appeals court, which would be tasked with making a timely review of the trial and either confirming or setting aside the death sentence. This review process should be completed within weeks rather than months of the end of the trial, which should itself have taken only a short time given the removal from the process of the current and often wholly unnecessary mass of extraneous matter and argument. Should the appeals court uphold the sentence, the execution of the convicted person should take place in a matter of days rather than weeks.
I feel that the right sentence would almost invariably result if the whole process were handled carefully and with a liberal application of common sense. There would, of course, inevitably be a few cases resulting in the handing down and implementation of the wrong sentence. This would be regrettable, and in such cases there would be a case for the rapid rehabilitation of the executed person, insofar as any such thing is possible, and the payment of compensation to any near relative.
In overall terms, though, I remain convinced that the benefits to society would far outweigh the moral cost of the occasional wrongful execution. I realise that the reimposition of the death sentence in British law would be contrary to European law, and would require the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. This too would be beneficial for the UK, I believe.