Parliament Abolishes the Death Penalty (Great Events from History II: Human Rights Series)
Article abstract: Increasing doubts about the deterrent value and the morality of capital punishment led the British parliament to abolish hanging.
Summary of Event
In 1800, there were more than 220 capital crimes on the British statute books, most involving the stealing of property. The chaos produced by the Industrial Revolution together with the lack of an organized police force turned the penal code to harsh punishment as the main deterrent to crime. By 1808, however, with the founding of the Society for the Diffusion of Knowledge Upon the Punishment of Death, demands for reform were heard in public and on the floor of the House of Commons. Sir Samuel Romilly began to agitate for penal reform and in 1808 succeeded in abolishing capital punishment for the crime of picking pockets. This marked the first step in a long series of parliamentary and public straggles that led eventually to the Murder Act of 1965 and the permanent abolition of capital punishment. Piecemeal legislation during the period 1819-1840 substantially reduced the number of capital crimes, and in 1861 the Criminal Law Consolidation Act reduced capital crimes to four: murder, treason, piracy with violence, and arson in government dockyards and arsenals. A royal commission appointed in 1864 to study the question of capital punishment recommended that the crime of murder be divided into degrees, with the death penalty for only the first degree (murder...
(The entire section is 2232 words.)
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