The 1949 UK Royal Commission on Capital Punishment (which was inconclusive on deterrence and most other things) pointed out that deterrence was very hard to establish. Countries which abolish the death penalty usually do so after a long period of suspension, or when it is hardly used, or when the law is unclear. So the murder rates before and after the formal date of abolition often tell us very little. In Britain, this is also the case. The death penalty had its teeth drawn in 1957 and the annual number of executions in the final years of capital punishment was small. So the penalty's official date of abolition, 1965, is misleading. There's another feature of this I'll turn to later.Then there is the difficulty of classifying murder. The 1957 Act introduced a category of 'manslaughter due to diminished responsibility' which got you off the death penalty. And so, for the eight years after 1957, this category of homicide grew quite sharply. Some suspect that these are cases which would have been murders before 1957.
Homicide means all unlawful killings, murder means killing with forethought. These are not the amount of homicides or murders, these are the number of convictions in these particular years. All percentages are rounded off.
1958 (2 years)
Homicide 113 (120% compared to 1956)
Murder 30 (lower because of 'manslaughter due to diminished responsibility' change)
1964 (6 years / 8 years since 1956)
Homicide 170 (150% compared to 6 years earlier / 180% compared to 8 years earlier)
Murder 44 (147% compared to 6 years earlier / 140% compared to 8 years earlier)
1966 (2 years / 10 years since 1956)
Homicide 254 (150% compared to 2 years earlier / 270% compared to 10 years earlier)
Murder 72 (160% compared to 2 years earlier / 225% compared to 10 years earlier)
1975 (9 years / 19 years since 1956)
Homicide 484 (190% compared to 9 years earlier / 515% compared to 19 years earlier)
Murder 107 (150% compared to 9 years earlier / 335% compared to 19 years earlier)
1985 (10 years / 29 years since 1956)
Homicide 614 (125% compared to 10 years earlier / 650% compared to 29 years earlier)
Murder 173 (160% compared to 10 year earlier / 540% compared to 29 years earlier)
2004 (19 years / 48 years since 1956)
Homicide 648 (105% compared to 19 years earlier / 690% compared to 48 years earlier)
Murder 361 (210% compared to 19 years earlier / 1128% compared to 48 years earlier)
Britain does a census every ten years, in 1951 the population of England and Wales was around 40,000,000. In 2001 that population was 52,000,000. If the population had increased at the same rate as the convictions for murder, the population of England and Wales would be 45,120,000,000.
Yes 45 billion people!
In 2004 there were 759 murder charges, 361 resulted in a conviction....thats a failure rate of 53%!
Add to that the fact that medicine has advanced enormously between 1956 and 2004. Imagine, for a horrified moment, what the statistics would be if medicine had not advanced since 1956.
One of the most basic of government functions is to keep people safe, another is to administer justice. How does allowing the murder rate to increase by more than 1000% achieve either of those things?
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