The reactionary right sees the death sentence, as backed by new Conservative Party Deputy Chair Lee Anderson, as a crucial tool for maintaining justice and maintaining social order. Anderson when asked by the Spectator’s James Heale if he supported the death penalty, he said:
‘Yes. Nobody has ever committed a crime after being executed. You know that, don’t you? 100 per cent success rate.’ He pauses. ‘Now I’d be very careful on that one because you’ll get the certain groups saying: “You can never prove it.” Well, you can prove it if they have videoed it and are on camera.
In a world of deep fake videos which are getting harder to spot this is an extremely naïve response from Anderson.
From a progressive standpoint, however, the death penalty is nothing more than a brutal practise that violates basic human rights and exacerbates the disparities inherent in a broken criminal justice system. We are fortunate that this barbaric practise was abolished in the United Kingdom in 1965, although it was not repealed for all offences until 1998. The last execution took place in the United Kingdom in 1964, and this must always be the case.
Using the United States as an example, the death penalty is frequently utilised to target marginalised communities, particularly communities of colour and low-income persons. It promotes structural prejudices in the criminal justice system and undermines the principles of fairness and equality that are the foundation of a just society. Furthermore, the death penalty is routinely used in a racially biased manner, with people of colour far more likely than white people to be sentenced to death.
The Death Penalty Information Centre (DPIC) has identified 190 exonerated death row convicts in the United States alone. If capital punishment had still been legal in the United Kingdom, the Birmingham Six (who were later fully exonerated) would almost certainly have been wrongly murdered by the state. DPIC has identified exonerated death-row individuals who were wrongfully convicted and condemned to death in 29 states in the US and across 118 counties. This is still an extremely high number, and the reactionary Anderson should certainly visit this website and educate himself on what he is truly advocating.
The death penalty is a flawed practise that is prone to error and the risk of executing innocent people remains high. The criminal justice system is fallible, and mistakes are made; yet, because the death sentence is irreversible, those mistakes cannot be addressed. The possibility of executing an innocent person violates fundamental human rights and undermines the entire foundation of the justice system.
We must acknowledge as progressives that the death penalty is a terrible and barbaric punishment that serves no purpose in a civilised society. Rather than depending on violence and repression, we must endeavour to build a more equal and just society in which human rights are protected and the abolition of the police and prison industrial complex is a primary goal. The continued repeal of the death penalty is a crucial step in this direction and is the only way to defend the dignity and rights of all individuals.
Reactionary politicians like Anderson and Home Secretary Suella Braverman make this country less safe. Last night’s events in Knowsley, where a fascist crowd of over 400 terrorised, a hostel sheltering refugees, highlight the power of the reactionary right’s antagonistic narrative.
We must not let the reactionary right and their fascist friends bring back the death penalty. It is a brutal and outmoded institution that violates the criminal justice system’s principles of fairness and equality. The fight to abolish the death penalty must always be part of a greater movement for justice and human rights, and we must seek to build a society that values and protects the lives of all people, regardless of colour, class, or background.
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