Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Cost Effective Justice

Over a seasonal glass or five of that extraordinary Slovenian Claret, Major Frobisher reasserted his bracing views on cost effective criminal justice.

We needn't dwell on his Rockall gulag or even the chaingangs keeping our road verges free of dead badgers. But we do need to highlight once again his contention that life imprisonment for murderers costs upwards of two million quid, whereas a length of rope from B&Q only costs a fiver. And he'd be quite happy to pay for it and indeed deploy it.

I don't know if he responded to the YouGov poll reported in today's Torygraph. But it's interesting inasmuch as it claims to be the first ever poll to show support for the death penalty at below 50%. Specifically, it finds 49% in favour, and 43% against.

As the article describes, this is at sharp variance to almost every other poll since abolition. These have tended to show around two-thirds in favour, at least for certain kinds of murders (eg children and police).

From the perspective of we utilitarian types, it's a surprising result. As the article says: "the murder rate in Britain has steadily increased since abolition. In 1964, there were fewer than 300 murders. By 1994, the year of the last parliamentary vote, there were 565 and last year there were 850."

People used to argue that when the occasional innocent man hanged, he was "dying for his country". His guiltless death was the price of deterrence so that hundreds of other innocents might live.

Now we seem to be saying that all those hundreds of extra murder victims are worth it, so the rest of us can avoid executing anyone: they are dying for their country's sensibilities.

What price a human life?

Of course, there's nothing much we can actually do: whatever the facts say, capital punishment is banned by the EU, and it looks like that massive tax-funded propaganda campaign against it may now be swinging public opinion.

As I said to the Major: "Have another glass of Claret. And arm yourself."

Quite splendid picture: Self-defence with a Walking-stick: The Different Methods of Defending Oneself with a Walking-Stick or Umbrella when Attacked under Unequal Conditions (Part2)
By E.W. Barton-Wright
From Pearson’s Magazine, 11 (February 1901), 195-204.

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