Death penalty

Is Lee Anderson No. 10’s secret weapon?

10 min listen

The chatter in Westminster has been dominated by comments the new deputy chairman of the Conservative Party gave to James Heale, The Spectator’s diary editor, in an interview published today. When asked if he was in support of the death penalty, Lee Anderson said: ‘Yes. Nobody has ever committed a crime after being executed. You know that, don’t you? 100 per cent success rate.’ On the podcast, Isabel Hardman talks to James and Katy Balls about whether No. 10 anticipated that the Conservative Party’s new deputy chairman would be making quite so many headlines, so soon into his promotion. Produced by Cindy Yu.

Russia’s dark path towards the death penalty

In Russia these days, the reintroduction of the death penalty has a grim inevitability about it. There has been a moratorium on capital punishment since 1996, but there are increasing calls for its revival. In December last year, the Head of the Constitutional Court Valery Zorkin wrote that the original moratorium had been a surrender to values ‘alien to the Russian national sense of justice’. The feeble Dmitri Medvedev, Putin’s erstwhile presidential seat-warmer, has reinvented himself as a hardline proponent of the ‘Supreme Penalty’. In a recent interview he claimed that, given Russia had left the Council of Europe, there were no obstacles stopping its reintroduction. The deputy head of

The hypocrisy of Donald Trump’s death penalty critics

Everyone is entitled to complain about Donald Trump’s behaviour after the presidential election. No one should be surprised. He is acting entirely in character. It was always certain that he would become the worst loser in history. In comparison, Ted Heath, the incredible sulk, seems almost gracious. But there is one respect in which the President’s detractors, including Joe Biden, may be guilty of hypocrisy: when it comes to the death penalty. In recent weeks Donald Trump has faced much criticism for allowing executions to take place during the presidential transition period. Previous outgoing Presidents had taken the view that if a condemned federal prisoner had exhausted every hope except

Boston bomber sentenced to death. But can they find the right drugs to kill him?

The Boston bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was today sentenced to death by lethal injection. The jury reached the decision in the city where the killer, 19 at the time, blew up the marathon, killing three and injuring 260. I feel no sympathy for him, but nor do I support the death penalty and I’m constantly amazed by the hash the US authorities make of a method of execution that sounds simple. Here is a list of 46 botched executions since 1982. This one from last year almost defies belief in its amateurishness: April 29, 2014. Oklahoma. Clayton D Lockett. Lethal Injection. Despite prolonged litigation and numerous warnings from defence attorneys about the dangers

The fox that killed my chickens depressed me more than 250,000 tsunami deaths

It is hard to know how a tragedy is going to move a person who is not directly affected by it. Over a death or misfortune in the family, or among one’s friends, one is sure to feel pain and grief. But what of those other ghastly events involving people, maybe hundreds or thousands of them, with whom one has no connection? They provoke shock, disgust and horror, but not necessarily great personal sadness. Could it be true that I was more depressed when a fox killed all my chickens than I was when the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 swept over a quarter of a million people to their

Could you afford to take a job with the royal family?

Royally paid Staff at Windsor Castle were balloted in strike action over pay. What can you earn in the royal household, according to adverts on the British Monarchy website? — Housekeeping assistant: £14,500 pa. Duties include ‘preparing rooms and cleaning upholstery’. Meals are provided, as is accommodation ‘for which there is a straight salary adjustment’. — Telephone operator in Privy Purse and Treasurer’s Office: £20,500. 38 hours per week. Includes some bank holiday and weekend working. — Ticket sales and information assistant for the summer opening of the Royal Collection: £8.80 per hour. Contract includes a minimum of 300 hours between June and September. Suicide watch French and German police

If British democracy worked, we would have had a referendum on the death penalty

Nice to know, isn’t it, that public attitudes are finally catching up with MPs’? It seems, from the Social Attitudes survey, that finally, half a century after parliament suspended the death penalty, 48 per cent of people no longer want the death penalty reintroduced. Opinion has been stubbornly in favour of it ever since 1965, and that was also true in 1998 when the Human Rights Act forbade capital punishment outright. In other words, until now, MPs have been wildly at odds with the opinion of most voters on an undeniably important issue. I’m unsure exactly where I stand on the issue myself, though I’ve always felt the guillotine would

‘Hang ’em high!’ – leftists for the death penalty, re Pistorius et al

O, the fury of my Sisters over the risible punishment (I’ve seen longer sentences in Ulysses) handed out to Oscar Pistorius! I’m with them all the way on this one. On hearing that India had issued the death penalty to the four men convicted of raping and murdering a student in Delhi last year, my first reaction was, ‘Ooo, good ­I hope it’s televised!’ I have long been a supporter of the death ­penalty for any type of killing except the most self-defensive kind – and I see this as an important part of my identity as a feminist, especially. Two women a week are killed by partners or ex-partners,

If America can’t put a person to death painlessly, it should stop executions altogether

I have never supported the death penalty. Maybe I was influenced when I was six or seven years old by the fact that our next-door neighbour in Campden Hill Square, west London, was a woman who devoted her life to campaigning for its abolition. She was born Violet Dodge in Surrey in 1882, the daughter of a washerwoman and of a ‘coal porter’ (a person whose job is to carry sacks of coal). She herself had worked for a while as a scullery maid, but eventually became immensely rich for inventing and manufacturing Shavex, the first brushless shaving-cream. She also married a Belgian painter called Jean Van der Elst, who

Do you agree with the Tories’ Alternative Queen’s Speech?

A bunch of back bench Conservative MPs have won the right to present to parliament, via the almost pointless conduit of private members bills, a sort of alternative manifesto. A fairly uncameroonie alternative Queen’s Speech. The MPs in question include Peter Bone and Philip Hollobone, both of whom sound a little as though they had stepped out of a Mervyn Peake novel and both of whom represent constituencies comprised largely of orcs and goblins in Northamptonshire. That being said, they are both rather good fun and have been principled thorns in the side of the current party leadership. If you can have a principled thorn. I suppose you can’t. Anyway,

An Execution in Tehran

Cranmer is right about this: It really is quite incredible. Last week, a convicted murderer, Troy Davis, was finally executed in the United States, and it seemed as though the entire British (and EU) Establishment arose to denounce the barbarism. Even Pope Benedict XVI appealed for clemency. Yet today, Iran is scheduled to hang a Christian pastor for ‘apostasy’, and the collective silence from our scurvy politicians, trappist churchmen and hypocritical media is positively deafening. Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani was found guilty two years ago of ‘apostasy’, even though he was never a practising Muslim. His guilt was determined because he ‘has Muslim ancestry’ (which is a kind of convenient catch-all

Scenes From An Execution

It’s important to insist that the argument about Troy Davis’s execution does not actually really rest on whether he is innocent or not. Nor is it actually the point that there are grounds for wondering if his conviction is entirely safe. We should not execute wrongly-convicted people is a necessary but not sufficient case against the death penalty. Guilt need not matter to the anti-execution party; it must or should matter to the pro-execution party. By way of demonstrating this, I submit that heinous as his crime was and despite the absence of any doubt, it remains grotesque that the state of Texas is executing this man: A white supremacist

Alex Massie

Your Lying Eyes

I don’t know, just as you don’t know, whether Troy Davis is innocent. I do suspect that his conviction would, in this country, be considered unsafe. Not that this, or anything else, matters to the Georgia Board of Pardons who have denied Davis’s last appeal for clemency. No-one should be surprised by that. Nevertheless, the case highlights a major problem in criminal trials: eye-witness testimony is often unreliable. According to the University of Virginia’s Brandon Garrett: The federal court that finally reviewed evidence of Davis’ innocence agreed “this case centers on eyewitness testimony.” Yet that court put to one side the fact that seven of the nine witnesses at the

Voters back the death penalty in polls — but will they petition for it?

Really, I expected a tidal rush of new opinion polls on the death penalty after Guido launched his campaign for its restoration last week — but, strangely, that hasn’t happened yet. There is one poll today, though, by Survation for the Mail on Sunday. It suggests that 53 per cent of people support the death penalty being reintroduced for “certain crimes”, against 34 per cent who don’t. So far as the supplementary findings go, the death penalty is more popular among older people and among Tory and UKIP voters. Almost half of all respondents believe that serious crimes would decline were the penalty reintroduced. And the three crimes deemed most

From the archives: “Capital punishment is absolutely indefensible”

Thanks to Guido and his co-conspirators, capital punishment is back on the political agenda. Here’s what The Spectator, under the editorship of Ian Gilmour, wrote about the hanging of Ruth Ellis — the last woman to be hanged in the UK — some 14 years before the abolition of the death penalty in Britain: The execution of Ruth Ellis, The Spectator, 15 July 1955 It is no longer a matter for surprise that Englishmen deplore bull-fighting but delight in hanging. Hanging has become the national sport. While a juicy murder trial is on, or in the period before a murderer is executed, provided that he or she has caught the

Capital punishment to be debated in parliament?

Sir George Young has graced the pages of the Daily Mail this morning, arguing that MPs cannot ignore the clamour for a debate on the death penalty, as examined in depth by Pete last weekend. The Leader of the House’s intervention is the greatest indication yet that parliament will discuss the issue for the first time since the passage of the Human Rights Act in 1998. This has not come as a bolt from the blue. A string of e-petitions will mature soon and capital punishment is expected to be near the top of the list, as it always is when the public is asked for its opinion. Young sees this as

The Death Penalty: A Matter of Emotion, Not Reason

As a torch-and-pitchfork populist it’s not a great surprise that Guido Fawkes is in favour of the death penalty. Nor will it be a great shock when he gathers the 100,000 signatures needed to petition parliament* to consider reintroducing capital punishment. And I agree with my old friend Neill Harvey-Smith who, while opposing the death penalty, ain’t afraid of discussing the issue even though, perhaps especially because, the polls consistently suggest a majority of voters would like to bring back hanging. So be it. Nelson Jones makes an astute point: the abolitionist cause was fortunate in its timing. Not just because it was a product of a liberal era but

The American Way of Justice

If the New York Times or the Washington Post had a proper measure of imagination one or other of them would have asked Radley Balko to write a criminal justice column for their op-ed pages. Their loss has been the Huffington Post’s gain. Before he moved to HuffPo Balko was a stalwart figure at Reason. It was there that he first wrote about the appalling case of Cory Maye, a Mississippi man convicted of killing a cop and placed on death row. That was five years ago. Today Maye was finally released, a free man at last, after agreeing to accept a lesser charge of manslaughter in return for being

Parliament and Mob Rule

You’d need a closed heart not to feel great sympathy for the family of poor Milly Dowler. Her killer Levi Bellfield is a vile, appalling creature and one can understand why the Dowler family would wish him executed. Many will share their sentiments. Among them is Guido who writes: The political class complains that the public is disengaged, could that be in part because there are a number of issues where the political class refuses to carry out the wishes of the people. All polls since 1965 when hanging was abolished show that there is majority support for capital punishment, yet there is no majority for it in parliament. It