Friday, February 22, 2008

Vengeance demeans, justice elevates civilization.

Whilst renewed calls for the death penalty are perfectly understandable from the families of recent murder victims, its a call I cannot support.

I harbour no righteous indignation at the thought of the death penalty. I just think its unproven as a deterrence and would be unjustly applied to only a few, whilst we face the real danger of juries acquitting the guilty and convicting the innocent.

A case in point, David Hodgson a 48-year-old Richmond man was found guilty earlier this week at Teesside Crown Court of murdering shop worker Jenny Nicholl in June 2005.

Jenny Nicholl's body has never been found, there was no official crime scene, no forensic evidence linking Hodgson to any killing and yet based on circumstantial evidence, Hodgson has been convicted and sentenced to serve a minimum of 18 years in prison.

Faced with only circumstantial evidence to go on and the thought a conviction would condemn Hodgson to the gallows. Would the jury have been as confident or would they have become squeamish and more likely to have returned a not guilty verdict?

We will never know, but I suspect several jurors would have wanted to have found a reasonable doubt and Hodgson a guilty man, might is such circumstances have walked free.

On 20 July 1910, Winston Churchill, then Home Secretary said,

“The mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of the civilization of any country”.

I think Winston Churchill was absolutely right, let us continue to think and act in a civilized manner. Many years spent in custody is a far harsher punishment, than Albert Pierrepoint's celebrated, record seven second hanging, of James Inglis on 8th May 1951.

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