Our Readers' Opinions
December 11, 2009

To hang or not to hang in SVG


Editor: I have listened quite attentively to many of the issues debated on the need for the adoption of the then proposed new constitution. One of the many that will forever resonate in my mind is “Hanging will resumed”. It must be said that “hanging” is a capital offence and as such constitutes the death penalty. It is also one that is hotly debated globally.{{more}} The jury is still out with respect to its use. Let me hasten to say that a central principle of a just society is that every individual has a right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. It has been accepted for centuries that those individuals who violate this right must pay the ultimate penalty.

The debate about hanging as a death penalty is dominated by two views. On the one hand, the murderers must be given the punishment that they deserve, which may be death. On the other hand, similar to the pacifist attitude to war, there is the view that under no circumstance is it possible to justify the use of the death penalty.

There are persons for and against capital punishment. In this respect allow me to share the following:

Arguments for capital punishment/death penalty

a. Society must protect civilians and those who fight crime from individuals who are unable to control their violent impulses.

b. Friends and relatives of the victims have the right to expect retribution. In this way, justice is clearly seen to be ‘done’.

c. Too often ‘life’ prisoners are released after a much shorter sentence and can be regarded as a great risk to the community.

d. The death penalty is the only sort of deterrent that certain criminals will understand.

e. Some criminals would much prefer to be executed than to spend the rest of their lives in prison. In 1977, in the USA, Gary Gilmore opted for death by the firing squad rather than face a life sentence in prison. He felt that death was preferable.

Argument against capital punishment /death penalty

a. There has been miscarriage of justice: people have been executed for crimes they did not commit.

b. The death penalty does not seem to work as a deterrent: many murders are committed on the spur of the moment, or because of mental illness.

c. Certain violent criminals and terrorists, if executed, could be seen as martyrs, and this might provoke extreme actions.

d. A ‘civilised state should defend life not take it- we cannot teach that killing is bad when we ourselves kill’.

e. There is a lack of fairness in the judicial process: disadvantaged groups suffer most.

f. Some countries use the death penalty indiscriminately to rid a government of its opponents.

g. Capital trials can be lengthy and costly because of appeals. Juries are also less inclined to convict persons if the death penalty is enforced.

There are far more arguments for and against capital punishment, but space will not permit to list all of them, hence I have just scratched the surface in order to reopen the discussion on this very touchy subject. By submitting this article, I am in no way trying to influence anyone I am just seeking a continuance of the civility of the debate on this subject.

It must be noted that many countries throughout the world still have capital punishment. Despite the many protests of groups such as Amnesty International, many countries, including St.Vincent and the Grenadines, have the death penalty, and others are considering reintroducing it.

Christopher Sampson