Death Penalty and Whipping/Caning

I recall watching Boo Junfeng’s <The Apprentice> which had been selected for the 69th Cannes Film Festival (May 2016). The protagonist was a Singapore Prisons Officer slated to take over from the state hangman. The catch? His father had been hanged by the very hangman he was to take over! Then in and around that period, I caught the US crime drama <Bones> (Season 10). One particular episode had the leading couple racing against time to uncover the truth behind a wrongful conviction for a murder convict. The prisoner was scheduled for death by lethal injection; but was exonerated before the sentence was carried out.

In 1969, Britain ended the death penalty (capital punishment). Yet in the 1970s and 80s, different polls showed that the British people desired its restoration. Legislative Bills, 13 of them initiated by non-ruling government Members of Parliament (MPs), failed nevertheless. In the same study by Veldman, the Iron Lady herself contradicted the Conservative Party when she supported corporal punishment for young criminals in 1961. A year earlier, one survey suggested that 6 in 10 Brits advocated the return of corporal punishment for some crimes. Thatcher stood on their side. (p. 59-60).

Then we have the death penalty in written fiction in <The Hanging Club>. (2016).  Tony Parsons (of Man and Boy fame), ventured into crime novels with Detective Constable Max Wolfe. In the story, a group of vigilantes execute people publicly via the internet. They felt that the law had let the perpetrators off with light slaps on the wrists.  The hanging method is of the inhumane variety. It chokes the person to death. The more humane and quick one was described in <The Apprentice> where the neck breaks upon the drop. It takes considerable skill and experience (and the mental capacity to react when one calculates incorrectly)!

Britain’s Chief Executioner, Albert Pierrepoint, came to challenge the death penalty. Parsons in his notes from the novel quoted Pierrepoint: ‘Capital punishment, in my view, achieved nothing except revenge.’ (p. 368). [Pierrepoint altogether hanged 435 people, with 202 being convicted Nazi war criminals.]

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