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Punishment by Death in the United Kingdom


The history of capital punishment in the United Kingdom goes way back to 450 BC, where the people condemned were being punished in different ways. One of the common ways was being dropped into a quagmire though this method was switched by the 10th century where hanging from the gallows was the most preferred method1. In 1965, the death penalty for the punishment of murder was banned in the United Kingdom; however, other intense crimes such as treasons remained punishable through the death penalty. Many people consider the death penalty an act that portrays cruelty, inhumanity, and a degrading form of punishment.

History of Black Act In the Year 1723

This famous act was among Britain’s national assembly actions, which was approved in the year 1723 to respond to several assaults by the two variety team of poachers who were called Blacks. This act continued to expand as the years progressed, and it consolidated the code through the specification of the capital crimes, which were over 200, and a lot had intense punishing.

In this act, suspects who never surrendered in due time could be taken to be guilty and were executed immediately after apprehension. The Black Act had originated after the South Sea Bubble. The name Black Act originated from their habit whereby they blacked their faces whenever they raid against the landowners.2

The poaching raids showed a program of action which already calculated and a social resentment conscious. These activities led the act to be introduced in the National Assembly in April the year 1723. This act was brought to action in May, and it led to the introduction of punishment by death for different criminal offenses, which surpassed 50. A reform campaign on criminal law, which was held in the 19th century, did the act to be changed in July the year 1823. This was caused by a bill that had been reformed to be brought to action. During the 18th century, the British government started transporting convicts overseas to the Americans’ colonial territories.3 When the American Revolution began, it caused an end to transportation. To relieve overcrowding in British prisons, the British chose Australia as a penal colony. The majority of the convicts who were being transported had committed petty crimes. The convicts who had achieved more crimes that carried a lot of weight, such as rape and murder, became a transportable offense as the punishment was by death. Other convicts stayed and lived in Australia, and they decided to join the free settlers. Some of the convicts in Australia raised and occupied prominent positions in Australian society.

The British History of the Death Penalty

It started from the Anglo-Saxon era to the year 1965, when punishment by death was called off. The necessary form of punishment by the end that the British used was hanging. Another form of punishment used was burning at stake, mainly done to women who had committed petty crimes such as killing their husbands or employers45. The Europeans implemented it in England during the eleventh century. It was used when a person had committed treason. The legal system used was called the ‘Bloody code’ for Britain. This led to offenses that were 200 in number offenses that the majority never carried a lot of weight and were punished through death. Executions were mostly used in times of murder, burglary, and robbery. England became notorious for performances that were based on property offenses.

Type of offenses the death penalty should be used for.

In support of the death penalty, it should be used to punish intense crimes committed, such as treason. The last punishment by death in the United Kingdom was carried out in 1964, the month of August. In that previous execution, Allen Peter and Evans Gwynne were hanged. They were responsible for the death of John Alan West.

Cases Surrounding Death penalty.

They are various reasons why the death penalty should not be re-introduced in the United Kingdom. Some of the theories and ideologies tend to misguide. Immanuel Kant’s view on punishment exemplifies Retributivism. Kantian believes the guilt of criminality deserves punishment regardless of any other considerations. Retributivism is a type of justification when an offender goes contrary to the law; justice will need them to suffer in return6. It creates a belief that there is a way to respond to a crime directly linked to the type of offense. Retribution usually champions fairness, which is not seen in the death penalty, where a second chance for rectification of the mistakes is denied. In this type of justice, the offenders are taught to be remorseful as they learn from their own mistakes. This type of justice is a severe and sufficient response to serious offending.

Just desert theory uses the philosophy of let punishment is given to fit the crime which has been committed. According to just desert, those who have committed the crime deserve punishment. Also, just desert believes that the offender’s sentence should be equally given to all the individuals who will execute the same type of crimes. This can be tricky as some certain circumstances surrounding the commission of the crime vary. In this type, it teaches the offenders to have some remorse. It makes the offender learn from the mistakes as the punishment given is equal and fair to the errors committed.

The proportionality form of punishment advocates that the offender is given the proper discipline related to the mistake that has been committed. This theory describes punishing the offender in the same way. Offering the same and equal punishment to the offenders shows fairness and justice. This form of punishment and justification will end some of the evilest acts in the United Kingdom7. This form of punishment will reduce the number of serial killers who are living in the United Kingdom. It will assist in solving some cases more positively.

The utilitarianism theory developed by John Stuart Mill in the year 1863 stands for a different perspective than the approaches of Proportionality, just desert, and Retributivism. Utilitarianism theory states that actions are usually right when they focus on doing less harm and promoting happiness.

Deterrence theory relating to criminal offending is usually the idea of using the threat of punishment to scare people away from committing any crime. When the death penalty is used as an example in this theory, it will scare more people. It will make more avoid indulging in criminal activities which is excellent for reducing illegal activities. The deterrence theory was developed by Cesare Beccaria and was later analyzed by Thomas Schelling.

Incapacitation theory talks of removing offenders from the people and locking them behind bars. Cesare Lombroso invented this theory. It usually does not require any assumption about the rationalism of the criminal. Under this punishment model, reducing crime by setting different kinds of punishment is usually the most crucial factor.

The rehabilitation theory usually had the most excellent effect on the criminals’ justice during the 1960s and 1970s. This type of model assumes that society and its activities are generally the root cause of criminal activities. These typically involve assisting an offender who has been found guilty of committing a crime to correct the behavior and live in harmony with the community members8. This method is usually costly and takes a lot of time before changes are made compared to the death penalty. There are still serial killers locked up inside the prisons in these recent times, yet they live to commit criminal acts such as theft and murder. Once they are released from jail, other criminals go back to their previous state, which causes the country a lot.

Criminal Justice System

The criminal justice system of the United Kingdom is divided into the police, the different types of courts, the Attorney General’s office, and the home office. The Crown court usually handles the offenses which carry a lot of weight, such as murder, rape and is typically ruled by the judge. This United Kingdom system usually takes its operation to reduce the levels of crimes by punishing the offenders. Apart from the Main Criminal Justice system, there is an alternative justice system such as Restorative justice, Retributive justice, and Distributive justice.

Restorative justice is usually the form of justice, whereby it focuses on offenders’ rehabilitation by bringing back a good relationship with the victims and the community. The offender learns ways of dealing with the future results of the offense and any issues that will arise in the future. Albert Eglash was a psychologist interested in making his clients responsible and accountable for their actions that irritated or pissed others. He forwarded a paper at a conference on reinstitution; in the article, Eglash talks of a therapeutic approach as a creative type of institution that accepts both the free will and psychological kind of determinism. Albert Eglash takes restorative justice, and restitution like is two types of alternatives. Punishment and the mode of treatment usually are concerned primarily with offenders. Retributive justice is the type of justice in which the main focus is the offender’s equal punishment, mainly based on the just deserts and Proportionality.9 Distributive justice is mostly where the critical focus is usually the fair allocation of resources in the society, while Restorative justice is mainly concerned with reinstitution. Sherman and Strang’s 2007 report usually reduces reoffending for dome offenders but generally not all. The reduced vaccines usually post-traumatic stress.

Every religion carries its views concerning the death penalty. The Catholics usually find this to be a sin as they consider the Bible and the laws that God gave to Moses on the covenant that No one is supposed to kill. Some Other religions usually find this to be different; for example, the protestants believe that it is a way of maintaining law and order. In the Bible, some crimes were paid through the death penalty, such as the two thieves crucified by Jesus. Muslims, on the other side, argue in favor of the death penalty. They believe that the death penalty is a punishment that came from God in the Quran. The European Union is generally opposed to the death penalty, and it dramatically condemns the death penalty. Article 2 of the European Union does say no to the use of capital punishment. The Europe council, which comprises 47 member states, is usually set to abolish any death penalty use by its members. The Council of Europe uses protocol 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights to abolish the death penalty though it only stretches its effects to the member states that signed. Russia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia are customarily excluded from the member states signed in the Council of Europe10. In 2019, punishment by execution for civilians and any military crimes were abolished in almost all countries, excluding Belarus. The death penalty goes against one of the vital human rights that is the right to life11. The death penalty can end up causing a life of an innocent soul.


Fisher, L, Gov UK (UK Constitutional Law Association Blog. 9 May 2013) http://ukconstitutionblog.com

Gunn, J, ‘A European Psychiatrist’s View of the Death Penalty.’ The Wiley International Handbook on Psychopathic Disorders and Law (London, 2020)

Jia, Y.’ Extradition and the death penalty: Reconsidering the margin of appreciation under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.’ (Lancaster University, 2020)

Luong, T ‘Why Vietnam Continues to impose the Death Penalty for Drug Offences: A Narrative Commentary.’ [2020] Pl 88-97

Phoebe, C, Samuel, R’ Hardening of the Attitudes: America’s views on the death penalty.’ [2017] PL 99

Webley, L Different Punishment theories (3rd edn, United 2018)

  1. Liz, Fisher, GOV, UK? UK Constitution Law Association Blog 9 May 2013)< https://UKConstitutionLawAssociationblog.com >accessed 1May 2015↩︎

  2. Hai Thanh Luong ‘’Why Vietnam Continues to Impose death penalty for drug offences: a narrative commentary’’International Journal of Drug Policy 88,103043,(2020)↩︎

  3. Phoebe C Ellsworth, Samuel R Gross ‘Hardening of the Attitudes: America’s views on the death penalty’ journal of Social Issue(2017)↩︎

  4. Yuan chi, Jia. Extradition and death penalty: Reconsidering the margin of appreciation under Article 2 of the European Convection on Human Rights. Lancaster University,(2020)↩︎

  5. Lisa Webley, Different Punishment theories(3rd edn, United 2018)↩︎

  6. John Gunn. A European Psychiatrist’s View of the Death Penalty. The Wiley International Handbook on Psychopathic Disorders and Law, (477-495,2020)↩︎

  7. Julian V Roberts, Mike Hough, JM Hough. Changing Attitudes to Punishment: Public Opinion Crime and Justice.(Routledge,2002)↩︎

  8. Julian V Roberts, Mike Hough, JM Hough. Changing Attitudes to Punishment: Public Opinion Crime and Justice.(Routledge,2002)↩︎

  9. Yuan chi, Jia. Extradition and death penalty: Reconsidering the margin of appreciation under Article 2 of the European Convection on Human Rights. Lancaster University,(2020)↩︎

  10. Yuan chi, Jia. Extradition and death penalty: Reconsidering the margin of appreciation under Article 2 of the European Convection on Human Rights. Lancaster University,(2020)↩︎

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