Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Life and Death

The Home Secretary has been criticised for agreeing to provide US authorities with information that will help the prosecution of two captured IS terrorists, without demanding an assurance that they will not be in danger of execution. That incident following other acts of terrorism, and cases of intimidation by groups of criminals has made me rethink my opinion on execution. Former IS fighters are dangerous, and I should feel much safer if they were dead.

I have long had doubts about what is usually called 'capital punishment'. That is partly because I doubt the concept of punishment, partly because I have some sympathy with murderers who for many years were the only people executed in Britain, but mainly because I was worried about the impossibility of making restitution for miscarriages of justice when the victim of the injustice has been executed.

Tha danger of miscarriage of justice is greatest when someone is charged with an isolated offence. Quite a lot of muderers are honest people who just once give in to the temptation to elimininate someone trying. I do not support capital punishment in such cases.

However there are cases where guilt is manifest. The two captured IS fighters videoed their atrocities and posted the evidence on the Internet. We need not appeal to the rather dubious notion of punishment in such cases. Executing gangsters is the only way of stopping their criminal carreers and making the rest of us safe. Imprisonment offers little security to the general public as architects of crime seem able to organise further misdeeds even while imprisoned.

Discussion of crime and punishment often neglects something very important: restitution. It seems to be rare for criminals to compensate their victims, or to compensate the taxpayer for the cost of apprehending them. One form of compensation has been possible only in recent decades. When criminals are executed their organs could be used for transplant surgery. It is unlikely that such surgery would often help the victims of the criminal concerned, but it would benefit many people my reducing the waiting lists for transplant surgery.

This possibility is rarely discussed, and when it is people often express a horror that is not supported by any reasoning. There seems to be a primitive taboo. We should  try to overcome it.

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