There was a flutter of interest on Christmas Day when, in festive mood, the Society of Black and Asian Lawyers tweeted the following:
“A little bird at the @ukhomeoffice tells us @pritipatel has asked Civil Service to scope a policy paper on the restoration of the death penalty in the #NewYear2021 and the #Tories have the majority to do just that.”
In the past Ms Patel has expressed support for capital punishment. In 2006 she told the Mail on Sunday:
“If you had the ultimate punishment for the murder of policemen and other heinous crimes, I am sure it would act as a deterrent. We must send a clear signal to people that crime doesn’t pay. The punishment must fit the crime and yes, I do support capital punishment.”
In a BBC Question Time programme in 2011 she said:
“I have said this before and I will say it again, I do actually think when we have a criminal justice system that continuously fails in this country and where we have seen murderers, rapists and people who have committed the most abhorrent crimes in society, go into prison and then are released from prison to go out into the community to then re-offend and do the types of crime they have committed again and again.
I think that’s appalling. And actually on that basis alone I would actually support the reintroduction of capital punishment to serve as a deterrent, because I do think we do not have enough deterrents in this country for criminals.”
In fact, I’m not sure she has ever “said it again.” In an interview with the Mail on Sunday in 2019, asked about the death penalty she said:
“I have never said I’m an active supporter of it and [what I said] is constantly taken out of context.”
If her apparently contradictory public statements can be reconciled, and perhaps they cannot, her position seems to be that the death penalty should be reintroduced even though she has never actually campaigned for its reintroduction.
However, let us make the unsafe assumption that the Society of Black and Asian Lawyers are correct, and that she has commissioned a “scoping exercise” in the Home Office to advise her on the feasibility of bringing back the gallows. Brexit may have removed one potential obstacle: any moves to reintroduce hanging would have met with objections from Brussels; indeed it would have been unlawful under the EU Fundamental Charter of Human Rights, Article 2 (2) of which of provides:
“No one shall be condemned to the death penalty, or executed.”
Happily the team need not waste any time on the knotty problem of the exact status of the Fundamental Charter in UK law, because post-Brexit it has none.
So, aside from the many philosophical objections to the death penalty, what practical problems will Ms Patel’s scoping exercise into the establishment of a post-Brexit bloody code need to address?
The problems, even for a determined government with a sizeable majority, are considerable. Continue reading “How could Priti Patel reintroduce the death penalty?”