Published on July 7th, 2014 |
by Matthew Deacon
On the 29th of April of this year Clayton Lockett was put to death in Oklahoma by lethal injection however, the execution was botched and the injection didn’t kill Lockett quickly or painlessly as intended. Instead the process went on for over an hour during which time he experienced convulsions, was able to speak to his executioners and even tried to get up from the execution table. In the end the execution was halted but he died an hour later from a massive heart attack, across America this botched execution has led to calls for the abolition of capital punishment.
In the UK capital punishment hasn’t been used since 1964 and was abolished for the crime of murder in 1965, and totally in 1998. However, according to many polls a majority of the British population support the reintroduction of capital punishment for some serious crimes. Why then, with increasing calls across America for the abolition of capital punishment and with increasing evidence of the inhumane nature of capital punishment procedures, does such a large portion of the British population still support the reintroduction of capital punishment?
In recent years, cases of child abuse and murder have grabbed the headlines with the murder of Milly Dowler, the disappearance of Madeline McCann and the ongoing Operation Yewtree all providing horrific narratives. In all polls centred on capital punishment there is more support for reintroduction for crimes against children. In a 2011 poll around 50% of the population supported the reintroduction of the death penalty for the crime of murder, but for the murder of a child that number rose to almost 70% support.
Despite many people in nations that currently carry out executions, such as the US, agitating to abolish capital punishment, many in the UK seek its return. The continuing support for the reintroduction of capital punishment in the UK is linked to these high profile cases and to the emotive ways in which they are reported in the British media. Crimes, particularly sexual crimes, against children cause a sense of moral and social outrage that the media and in particular the tabloid press focuses an intense spotlight on. In the media, crimes against children, unlike most crimes against adults, are depicted as acts of unspeakable evil and horror and their perpetrator is vilified and cast out of mainstream society. In the case of Jimmy Savile his massive crimes, which will go unpunished after his death, have transformed a former popular entertainer into a villain and a disgusting hate figure.
Support for the reintroduction of capital punishment is also aligned with an increase of support in recent years for right wing groups and political parties such as the BNP and UKIP. Both these parties as well as some sections of the Tory party support the reintroduction of the death sentence and with the remarkable rise of UKIP these views have been given more air time and more legitimacy on a broader stage. As far right groups gain momentum winning seats and supporters, more and more people are exposed to and influenced by their policies.
Ever since the death penalty was repealed in the UK in 1964 there has been a continuous voice demanding its reintroduction, it is through right wing media outlets and right wing political parties that this support for capital punishment has continued for such a long period of time. With the rise of UKIP the voice of the far right is only going to get louder, and for as long as horrific crimes against children remain the tabloids favourite material with which to outrage the nation, support for capital punishment will remain high.
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