28.11.2019 12:37

History and evolution of capital punishment in the United Kingdom

History and evolution of capital punishment in the United Kingdom

The object of this research is history and evolution of capital punishment in the United Kingdom. It should be pointed out that the problem in question - capital punishment - is a matter of active controversy in various countries. Most of societies had practiced it in the past and only after World War II they have begun to abolish it. Still, today numerous countries practice capital punishment for different kinds of capital offences. Great Britain was one of the countries that abolished it recently. But it is important to understand what led to the capital punishment abolition in the United Kingdom so that it would be possible to analyze the global problem of death penalty abolition: is it necessary and what can lead to it? In order to do that we analyzed the history and evolution of capital punishment in the United Kingdom since the 18th century.

Death penalty also known as capital punishment is a legal process whereby a person is put to death by the state as punishment for a crime. A death sentence is the judicial decree issued to a person for his crime. Meanwhile an execution is the actual process of killing the person. Crimes that can result in a death penalty are known as capital crimes or capital offences. Among some of the most common methods of execution that are permitted for use we can name: beheading, electric chair, gas chamber, hanging, lethal injection, shooting.

On the May 1, 1707, The Acts of Union, passed by the English and Scottish Parliaments, led to the creation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain. At that time the criminal law included 220 crimes punishable by death. The goal of many of these offences was the protection of the property of the wealthy classes. At those times executions for murder, burglary and robbery were common, for many of the minor offences the death penalty was often not carried out. However, children were commonly executed for such minor crimes as theft. Between 1770 and 1830, 35,000 death sentences were handed down in England and Wales, but only 7000 executions were carried out. At that time death penalty was a better solution than prison as prisons were mostly small, old and badly-run. But by the 1830s many new prisons were built and old ones extended.

In 1808, Sir Samuel Romilly had the death penalty removed for pickpockets and lesser offenders, and initiated a the long process of reform that continued throughout the 19th century. Soon juveniles under 16 and pregnant women could no longer be executed. After the Second World War Parliament adopted the bill that established an experimental five-year suspension of the death penalty was agreed upon. The last executions in the United Kingdom, by hanging, took place in 1964. Although not applied since, the death penalty was abolished in all circumstances in 1998 when the Human Rights Act came into force.

Е. В. Зуборева

History and evolution of capital punishment in the United Kingdom

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