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Why was the Death penalty abolished in the 1960s?

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Why was the Death penalty abolished in the 1960s? The death penalty, or capital punishment as it is also known, refers to the practice of executing someone in punishment of a specific crime. Movements against the death penalty can be seen throughout history, but it was in 1969 when the Death Penalty was abolished in Britain and there were many factors influencing this decision. One of the leading factors to why the death penalty was abolished in 1960s was due to the influence of the Labour party which was elected in the 1964 General Election. The labour party reflected the more liberal views of society and when the death penalty was finally abolished for ordinary crimes, it was under the Labour party in 1965. However, to fully understand why the death penalty was abolished in the 1960s, we must first understand when the changing attitudes towards the death penalty began. Tomlinson claims that Labour began 'emerging in 1906' and was against the death penalty from the beginning. For example, in 1929, a Labour member proposed the idea that capital punishment should be put on hold for an experimental five years; however as Mortensen says in her analysis, the conservatives 'resigned and refused' to co-operate with Labour plans to abolish the death penalty, as they supported capital punishment. ...read more.


Silverman's argument was predominantly based on the fact that there could be miscarriages of justice and he based his argument around the Timothy Evans case, a man who was hanged in 1950 for murdering his baby daughter, but was later discovered that the murderer was 'almost certainly Evans' neighbour, John Christie'. This is supported by Stearman in his book 'The Death Penalty' and further evidence meant that Timothy Evans was later granted a posthumous pardon in 1966. This illustrates how politicians were becoming against capital punishment. The Derek Bentley case in 1953 also fuelled the abolitionist movement, as it questioned whether a person who had learning difficulties and mental issues should be put to death. Furthermore, it was not Bentley who shot the policeman, but his companion Christopher Craig who was under the age of sixteen. This questioned the fairness of the case. Bentley also received a posthumous pardon. These cases helped make a firm argument in favour of abolishing the death penalty and Silverman used these cases. Two years later, in 1955, another case placed the death penalty issue to the fore of national attention- the Ruth Ellis case. ...read more.


In the 'Crime and Punishment BBC 4 Documentary', it was made clear that many people wanted the death penalty reinstated and that both 'Myra Hindley and Ian Brady' should have been 'killed' for their horrific murders. However, the public's opinion was never asked for in the form of an official referendum or vote. This illustrates how politicians did not respond to public opinion. To conclude, the death penalty was abolished for many reasons including the influence of Labour's views, the effects of world war two, miscarriages of justice and cases when the death penalty was questioned as well as pressure from the public. The fact that the Homicide Act was passed in 1957 also reflects changing attitudes, as MPs began to limit the use of the death penalty. The posthumous pardons also portray how MPs were against what happened to Bentley and Evans and show their changed views that the death penalty was wrong. However, statistics show that the public supported and wanted the return of the death penalty, especially after horrendous crimes were committed such as the Moors Murders discovered after the abolishment of the death penalty in 1966. However, politicians had decided that the death penalty had no place in modern Britain and were responding to the mistakes that caused the deaths of innocent people such as Timothy Evans. ...read more.

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