Talk:Capital punishment in the United Kingdom

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Right to defence pre-1836 ?[edit]

Wasn't it the case that before 1836 and the Prisoners' Counsel Act, felony defendants could not be assisted by an attorney in England? This would be of interest in this article — not only could people be sentenced to death, with some considerable discretion for the judges, but also they did not get fair trials (at least according to minimal standards compared to today's trial rules). David.Monniaux 13:01, 24 Mar 2005 (UTC)


Scotland[edit]

What a very Anglocentric article! It takes no account, as far as I can tell, of the fact that Scotland has its own legal system and a completely separate system of criminal law (with the exception of treason, which was assimilated to English law by the Treason Act 1708). Well might you wonder what relevance has... except that the Scots use of capital punishment was rather different: for example, arson as a crime doesn't exist, and the old distinction between wilful fireraising and culpable and reckless fireraising was based on the former being a capital offence. We also suffered the usual statute law reform time-lag, most famously (if I remember correctly) that it was discovered, with some horror, that treason was still punishable by hanging, drawing and quartering in Scotland into the 1940's! Perhaps I'll write something from the Scottish perspective, if I ever get the time... --Killiedaft 23:02, 18 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Thank you for your suggestion. When you feel an article needs improvement, please feel free to make those changes. Wikipedia is a wiki, so anyone can edit almost any article by simply following the edit this page link at the top. The Wikipedia community encourages you to be bold in updating pages. Don't worry too much about making honest mistakes — they're likely to be found and corrected quickly. If you're not sure how editing works, check out how to edit a page, or use the sandbox to try out your editing skills. New contributors are always welcome. You don't even need to log in (although there are many reasons why you might want to). No offense intended :)

it's a fair point, perhaps this should be moved to Capital punishment in England and Wales? Jooler 23:02, 2 September 2005 (UTC)

Quite agree with that point. England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland each have their own distinct legal systems. It would make sense to have seperate articles. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 195.27.15.83 (talk) 08:29, 22 July 2009 (UTC)

As it is fully abolished in all parts of the UK (abolished for all possible crimes) I would suggest making a sub-article as the laws regarding this issue are the same in every part of the UK nowadays (laws: abolished in total)
I disagree. The Home Secretary (or iirc the Secretary of State for Scotland??) made the final decision whether a person should "swing." In other words, despite different legal systems, the application of the death penalty was, ultimately, a UK central government decision. RodCrosby (talk) 08:56, 22 July 2009 (UTC)

There's absolutely no point in having a seperate article for Scotland unless somebody is prepared to write it. The only reason this article is "Anglocentric" is because nobody knows anything else about Scottish law. Why move this article to "Capital punishment in England and Wales" and then have a red link to "Capital punishment in Scotland"? If someone can fill this article out with more info on Scotland and NI then you might be able to justify doing it (except then it wouldn't be "Anglocentric" anymore, so there still wouldn't be any point...). Richard75 (talk) 15:30, 22 July 2009 (UTC)

Agreed certainly no need for separate articles on this. BritishWatcher (talk) 15:53, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
The list seems limited to British / English executions. Until 1922 - or 1927 - the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland included what became the Irish Free State, where many famous - or infamous - executions took place. Some are at Capital punishment in Ireland.86.42.213.69 (talk) 13:36, 6 May 2011 (UTC)

Death penalty in colonies[edit]

Is it possible to have a section on death penalty in british colonies before their independence?? —Preceding unsigned comment added by Leotolstoy (talkcontribs)

In 1977 the two assassins of the Governor of Bermuda and his Aide De Camp were executed by hanging in England. Why is this not mentioned anywhere? Does Britain outsource the Death Penalty so it doesn't count? Have there been any other executions?Waukegan 10:57, 16 August 2007 (UTC)

If you can find a source for this then go ahead and put it in the article. Richard75 17:54, 16 August 2007 (UTC)

Thank you Richard. I just found out that the executions were carried out in Casemates Prison Bermuda, and not the UK. Waukegan 06:23, 19 August 2007 (UTC)

Jersey and Isle of Man[edit]

Neither are part of the UK but, hey, I learnt something that I would not have otherwise, so I will leave that for some other pedant. Aatomic1 16:39, 29 March 2007 (UTC)

"The last execution on the Isle of Man took place in 1872." - that date looks like a misprint for 1972 to me, but I've not got a source to check against. JohnHarris (talk) 20:25, 18 December 2007 (UTC)

It's 1872. Richard75 (talk) 23:44, 18 December 2007 (UTC)

Current support for death penalty[edit]

I came to the article to get an idea of the current level of support in the UK for the restoration of the death penalty, but this is not discussed within the article, there is also no link from the article to this subject. Either I'm not looking in the right place, or there is nothing in Wiki on this issue. WikiReaderer 14:52, 30 August 2007 (UTC)

Are you saying that you are asking for a restoration of the death penalty?! This could mean reinforcing revenge and more violence for violence, and I won't allow it. I'm against the death penalty, and I just don't see any sense in killing people to say that killing people is wrong. Therefore, asking for a restoration of the death penalty in the UK or anywhere else in the world is totally unacceptable. --Angeldeb82 21:42, 26 October 2007 (UTC)
Oh shut the fuck up. This page is for discussing how to improve the article, not your opinion about the subject of the article. Richard75 23:07, 26 October 2007 (UTC)
I won't allow it - it's not really up to you as an individual is it. Jooler 01:54, 10 November 2007 (UTC)
That's what I was wondering about as well. I don't support the death penalty either, but I was wondering what the current nature of the debate was. Some of the other articles about issues such as this have explanations of the current public debate/party positions and opinion polling. EJB341 (talk) 15:08, 30 December 2007 (UTC)

There are often vocal calls for the death penalty's reinstatement but I have yet to encounter one that was either serious in tone or from anyone significant. However, if anyone finds a source for it with a significant voice (ie. NOT "they ought to string him up!"-Outraged Citizen #354634) it ought to be mentioned. Similarly, if the figures for the apparently regular vote on the death penalty in Parliament are available and show any significant support, that should be mentioned as well. Leushenko (talk) 01:22, 5 March 2008 (UTC)

The death penalty is usually the prime example given of Parliament supposedly not reflecting popular opinion on a subject but rather MPs standing against mass opinion. The media consensus is that opinion polls show the public are in favour of its restoration but a majority in the Commons are opposed (and this significantly predates the ECHR issue making a restoration impossible). However whilst this may well be regularly polled in general opinion polls about the only time the issue gets much actual media/public discussion or specific opinion polls done is in the aftermath of a particularly nasty crime that tends to distort things (and also reinforces the argument that MPs should make a careful consideration not just look at an opinion poll and vote in line with that week's majority opinion). Timrollpickering (talk) 23:03, 11 August 2008 (UTC)

Influence on United States?[edit]

It would be interesting to read a bit more on how the British system influenced the American one in this respect. -- 212.63.43.180 (talk) 14:12, 16 April 2008 (UTC)

Last Woman Execution in the UK[edit]

Article mentions last woman to be executed in the UK as Ruth Ellis in 1955, but the line preceding that tells us another woman was executed in Wales in 1958. Surely Wales is part of the UK? —Preceding unsigned comment added by 158.180.192.10 (talk) 14:50, 12 August 2008 (UTC)

In Wales, Vivian is a man's name. Richard75 (talk) 16:21, 12 August 2008 (UTC)

List of executions[edit]

The list of notable executions is quite long. Maybe it should be put on a list page and this article could include a link instead? Svenna (talk) 19:41, 9 May 2010 (UTC)

I agree. Richard75 (talk) 20:15, 9 May 2010 (UTC)

Time taken between conviction and execution - appeal process[edit]

I've been listening to old time radio shows recently - Black Museum, Secrets of Scotland Yard, etc - that discuss actual murder cases from the UK. In some of the shows, I've noticed that they describe the convicted man being executed weeks, or just a few months after their conviction in court. Please note that these are cases from the early-mid 20th Century. Reflecting on our contemporary American system, in which convicted murderers sit on Death Row for 15-20 years while their cases are appealed through multiple judicial levels, I was wondering if someone with the relevant knowledge could add something about the appeal process that existed in the UK for capital cases.


MarkinBoston (talk) 06:45, 6 December 2010 (UTC)

The Return[edit]

There's currently a debate about whether to restore the death penalty or not. Should this be mentioned? -- 92.4.110.206 (talk) 15:36, 4 August 2011 (UTC)

Someone has added it now. However I think we don't need to go into a lot of detail about it, or else it gives the impression that nobody campaigned for the death penalty to come back until August 2011, when in fact it has been an issue almost constantly since abolition. A more general paragraph would suffice. Richard75 (talk) 18:38, 8 August 2011 (UTC)

Last Woman Publicly Executed?[edit]

Article currently (2 October 2011) lists two different women (on different dates) for whom this claim is made. Obviously, provided both executions are correctly described, the later date prevails. Nandt1 (talk) 15:20, 2 October 2011 (UTC)

I assume one of them is Ruth Ellis but who is the other one? Richard75 (talk) 21:00, 2 October 2011 (UTC)
No,no; a misunderstanding. I am talking about public executions, i.e., in front of the crowd. Ellis died behind prison walls. The candidates here are called Brown and Kidder (see article). Now that I read the entry more carefully, it seems that the claim for Brown relates to the narrow category of those executed in Dorset, rather than nationally, so I will try to make that point more clearly. Nandt1 (talk) 21:35, 2 October 2011 (UTC)

1998 or 2004[edit]

An editor reverted another's dates for abolition, asserting that it must have been either 1998 or 2004 but could not have been both. Actually, it was both. In 1998 the death penalty was removed from the last offence but the penalty was not in itself abolished, it was merely that there were now no offences for which it was levied. In 2004, the death penalty was in itself abolished as a result of adherence to the ECHR, in such a way that restoration could only be done by abrogating that convention. This is explained in details in the reference cited by the editor who made the original assertion. Cusop Dingle (talk) 19:12, 1 April 2012 (UTC)

Public support for reintroduction of capital punishment[edit]

This section seems to be more about high-profile crimes post abolition that might, or did, trigger calls for reintroduction. These are presumably catered for by Major crimes in the United Kingdom. I propose to edit this down to material about capital punishment, not the crimes. Cusop Dingle (talk) 21:31, 9 April 2012 (UTC)

Beheading[edit]

When was behaeding last used as a form of capital punishment in the UK? The article refers to an 1820 behaeding in Scotland - when did the practice die out? And why? 86.134.116.159 (talk) 12:12, 18 April 2012 (UTC)

Incorrect legal analysis as violation of WP:PRIMARY[edit]

The following paragraph gives an incorrect legal analysis (incorrect part in bold, the rest is for context):

On 20 May 1998 the House of Commons voted to ratify the 6th Protocol of the European Convention on Human Rights prohibiting capital punishment except "in time of war or imminent threat of war." The last remaining provisions for the death penalty under military jurisdiction (including in wartime) were removed when section 21(5) of the Human Rights Act 1998 came into force on 9 November 1998. On 10 October 2003, effective from 1 February 2004,[22] the UK acceded to the 13th Protocol, which prohibits the death penalty under all circumstances,[23] so that the UK may no longer legislate to restore the death penalty while it is subject to the Convention. It can only now restore it if it withdraws from the Council of Europe.

The 2 sources given are as follows:

[22] The Human Rights Act 1998 (Amendment) Order 2004
[23] Protocol No. 13 to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms

They are both primary sources. This is a stereotypical violation of WP:PRIMARY (WP:OR) in that the citations given are primary sources:

Do not analyze, synthesize, interpret, or evaluate material found in a primary source yourself...

WP:USINGPRIMARY gives additional guidance:

Primary sources may only be used on Wikipedia to make straightforward, descriptive statements that any educated person—with access to the source but without specialist knowledge—will be able to verify are directly supported by the source.

The goal is only that the person could compare the primary source with the material in the Wikipedia article, and agree that the primary source actually, directly says just what we're saying it does.

The disputed interpretation is wrong, and is definitely not supported by the primary sources. I do not have to prove the interpretation is wrong, the editor adding the statements must prove they are right. They have not, because one cannot use primary sources to prove an interpretation, so therefore the statements should be removed on that fact alone. It sucks, but as soon as they are challenged they must go if they are without valid sources. Int21h (talk) 14:36, 30 June 2013 (UTC)

(Thanks for notifying me about your edit above.) The source at footnote [23] clearly says that the death penalty is prohibited, so I presume that your objection is based on the fact that the sentence in bold could be read as meaning that Parliament does not have the power to restore the death penalty, in which respect you are correct. It was only intended to mean that Parliament could not do so consistently with its treaty obligations under the Convention, which is why it ends with the second sentence about withdrawing from the Convention. Clearly the text in bold is still susceptible to misunderstanding so I will reword it, but I believe that the primary source is sufficient to show that the Convention says that Parliament must not -- rather than can not -- bring back the death penalty. Does this answer your objection? Richard75 (talk) 18:54, 30 June 2013 (UTC)
You are assuming too much. You may, or may not, be correct in your new analysis. I believe your new analysis would be incorrect as well: it still presumes to know what Parliament must or must not do. It is arguably a correct analysis, but it is also arguably an incorrect analysis. This is in the realm of "international law", which I quote because it is an ongoing philosophical and factual debate.
Unless there is an Act of Parliament saying otherwise, Parliament is well within its rights (which are arguably limitless when promulgated by the monarch aka with royal assent) to pretend to implement a treaty while in reality disregarding its provisions. (The United States Congress does this all the time, e.g. the ICCPR, and its ability to do so draws upon the historical rights of Parliament to do so.) The King in Council makes treaties, the Parliament makes laws, and there is no absolute agreement in legal philosophy that says one must be consistent with the other as your statement asserts. It is all very POV and wishy-washy.
Just view it thus: you are asserting what a sovereign entity must or must not do without so much as secondary or tertiary source. Did you think such entities, as sovereign and by definition not subject to any law but its own, would be so simple a subject? You will find quickly that it is not as clear and settled as you portend, that such are the subjects of epic debates, and even more epic wars. I will engage in debate about the vagaries of so-called international law, but the simple fact is that I have challenged the material, so at this point sources must be given or the material is subject to removal. Int21h (talk) 13:30, 1 July 2013 (UTC)
Fair enough. How about "so that the UK may no longer legislate to restore the death penalty for as long as it intends to comply with the Convention"? This avoids implying that Parliament can't or musn't pass a certain law and avoids the sovereignty issue. Richard75 (talk) 13:46, 1 July 2013 (UTC)
Why not leave it out entirely, leaving the question as an exercise to the reader? It will leave a giant question mark in peoples minds, yes, but that is exactly what the state of the debate is: a giant question mark.
It is simply an argument that Parliament cannot or must not do something. An opinion. You are asserting this as fact. An argument that it would be violating the Convention if it did so, even if it did so in some roundabout, legalistic, implied manner. That it would be a clear violation, and never a cloudy, half-wrong violation that every court could somehow find was not a violation of the Convention even though everyone knows (in your opinion) it is a violation. And any number of other possibilities you are not accounting for (a common case is when the government requires assertion of the right to be free from capital punishment, and/or restricts (post-)trial procedures such that assertion of the right is impossible or impracticable, and/or redefines words and phrases. Again, "no that's not right! that's a violation of the Convention! a violation of the law!" I hear him say, as they lead him to the gallows. Yawn.)
That is for others to decide, not Wikipedia. You are leading people to believe the issue is somehow settled. That it is simple. It is neither. It is an active, ongoing debate. A complex, nuanced debate. A modern debate that runs directly against traditional and historical theories on the matter. This is exactly what the Wikipedia policies are meant to avoid: misleading readers. And on such an important topic, this is a great misdeed.
You may not understand this yet, but you are writing what you want to be reality, what you want to be the state of law. This is why the sources are so important, because they make it clearer just how opinionated a subject is. You add an assertion with a source, then I add an opposing assertion with a source, you try and remove my assertion because it is "irrelevant" or "a minority opinion" or some other nonsense. After a large debate, both sides come to understand it is not a clear cut matter. Then they either decide to incorporate the argument into the article, or whether the debate is superfluous to the subject at hand (often as a more generic debate).
The debate is superfluous. Just leave it out. We can rehash the "internationalism" versus "parliamentary sovereignty" debate every time a treaty and its implementing legislation is mentioned, but that is not good. It takes away from the clarity of this article. Just leave the debate for those articles, which already exist (European Convention on Human Rights, Human Rights Act 1998, Parliamentary sovereignty in the United Kingdom, Royal prerogative in the United Kingdom, International law, Treaty, Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, Self-executing right, International legal theories. etc., but they only touch on what a good book or law review article does.)
I hope you understand we will be doing readers a disservice. There are many times more law schools (and law reviews) in the US, and there have only been a few online that I have found that touched on the subject. Unlike the US, I have not found UK law reviews and law journals to be particularly easy to find and read, so it will be hard for me to educate (elucidate) on the current state of affairs there, as most US reviews end review of UK law in the 18th and 19th centuries, and do not include 21st century UK jurisprudence such as the interaction with the ECtHR. It gets very nuanced, and the meaning of simple words like "must" and "may" begin to fail to properly describe matters. Why though? Why have this debate in this article? Int21h (talk) 16:21, 1 July 2013 (UTC) Int21h (talk) 16:42, 1 July 2013 (UTC)
If you want to take out the part in bold, go ahead. Richard75 (talk) 21:27, 30 July 2013 (UTC)

Parliamentary debates on reintroduction = too long?[edit]

The recently added section on "Parliamentary debates on reintroduction" is a whole swathe of material about proposed legilsation which never actually passed. Do we really need as much detail as this about things which never happened? I suggest cutting it right down. Richard75 (talk) 14:39, 10 August 2013 (UTC)


Please delete[edit]

Someone wrote: (no it wasn't) ... Wathiik (talk)

Usurpation of the Scottish Royal Arms[edit]

There is no mention of "Usurpation of the [Scottish] Royal Arms or Banner", which according to

  • Sir Thomas Innes of Learney (1971) [1934]. "Chapter XVI. The Royal Arms and National Flag". Scots Heraldry: A Practical Handbook on the Historical Principles and Modern Application of the Art and Science (2nd ed.). Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co. p. 216. ISBN 0-8063-0478-2. LCCN 74152173.

"renders the offender liable to the capital penalty". --Redrose64 (talk) 15:02, 26 July 2014 (UTC)

Punishment of Death, etc. Act 1832[edit]

I can't find this law. According to legislation.gov.uk, the following UK General Public Acts were passed in 1832:

  • Lord Chancellor’s Pension Act 1832
  • Tithe Act 1832
  • Ecclesiastical Corporations Act 1832
  • Prescription Act 1832
  • Game (Scotland) Act 1832
  • Allotments Act 1832
  • Admiralty Act 1832
  • Excise Permit Act 1832

None of these has anything to do with capital punishment, and searching for "death" in laws from 1832 gives no results. Is it not on the UK legislation website? Hairy Dude (talk) 14:29, 31 August 2015 (UTC) Hairy Dude (talk) 14:29, 31 August 2015 (UTC)

It's been repealed. That website only lists current legislation. Richard75 (talk) 18:30, 31 August 2015 (UTC)

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