29 September, 2020

Blog

Should The Death Penalty Be Revived?

By R.M.B Senanayake

RMB Senanayake

RMB Senanayake

The public seems to be alarmed by the crime wave now taking place in the country as seen by recent incidence of violent crimes such as the kidnapping and killing of children which seem to be more common now than earlier. The ordinary public is demanding the implementation of the death penalty which has been suspended. It may be true that there is no evidence that the death penalty is a deterrent to crime. But public perceptions do matter in a democracy and it is better to restore or revive it at least to satisfy the public conscience.

Research has been carried out in other countries about the deterrence value of the death penalty. But we cannot extrapolate their results here. I am not aware of any similar statistical survey being done in our country and we cannot extrapolate statistical results across countries in the case of social issues . Surveys of the opinions of police chiefs abroad were also evenly split. Some though the death penalty was a deterrent but the majority though otherwise. But these results cannot be extrapolated across countries. There may be more than one cause for the increase in crime and the lack of a deterrence is only one factor.

Other areas which were cited as major problems included crowded courts and slow justice. On the other hand, ineffective prosecutions are also a factor which enables criminals to escape punishment. The death penalty may not be the deterrent that the public think. But at least it has a psychological value as it affects the perceptions of the people. The would be criminal may not take a rational count of the chances of getting caught . But he certainly has a perception of the possibility of getting caught. Perhaps we should strengthen this perception by re-introducing the death penalty.

The main objection to the death penalty is that an innocent person may be imposed such a punishment and then there is no way to correct the mistake. Yes but other factors too should be taken into account. Just as an innocent person should not face the death penalty there should be no impunity for criminals to kill people. Law enforcement officers believe that the most effective deterrent to crime is swift and sure punishment. But our dilatory legal procedures mean that the punishment even if it takes place is long after the event and in the meantime the suspect may be out on bail. Naturally the death penalty in such a case is of no deterrent value.

The death penalty by itself may not be the deterrent the public expect. But when combined with other measures such as speeding up of trials, better prosecutions and training of law enforcement officers in modern methods of detecting crimes should certainly help.

I think the Government should immediately start enforcing the death penalty. It must pay heed to public perceptions for just as there is no proof that the death penalty is an effective deterrent nor is there concrete proof that it is not a deterrent at least to some persons who are would be criminals.

In other countries when asked which societal or legal changes would have the greatest impact on reducing violent crime, police chose strengthening families and neighborhoods, along with swift and sure punishment for offenders, as the means that would bring about the most significant effects.

Police should be given more control over illicit drugs, greater latitude provided for judges in criminal cases, to hear and dispose of criminal cases speedily. The death penalty, may not be an effective deterrent by itself but when combined with other measures like speedy trials and efficient prosecutions, it is likely to be more effective on the other hand, was not thought to have a big impact on crime reduction.

Over two-thirds of the police chiefs did not believe that the death penalty significantly reduces the number of homicides. About 67% said that it was not one of the most important law enforcement tools. And well over 80% of the respondents believe that murderers do not think about the range of possible punishments before committing homicide. The figures below illustrate the lack of confidence which police chiefs place in the death penalty as a deterrent.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 3
    1

    “Should The Death Penalty Be Revived?”

    when you mention it Lanka’s as usual would gear up for extra judicial killings as of today. The lie of the national flag like the people and its culture.

    • 2
      2

      Yes, RMB,

      It should be implemented on all those who committed crimes against humanity, i.e, innocent Tamils.

      • 5
        0

        I didn’t realise that innocent Tamils committed crimes against humanity. High time Mrs Balasingham joined MR on the list.

    • 1
      0

      R.M.B Senanayake

      RE: Should The Death Penalty Be Revived?

      There is already a death penalty for those who oppose politicians.

      Ask the victims of Gotabaya, Mahinda Rajapaksa and their cronies.

  • 5
    3

    I think many people do not have a fear to do the wrong thing.

    The key to rapid development is a set of rules and firm adherence to those rules. The both ends – deterrent and policing must work like clockwork with integrity.

    As long as people do not fear to break the law, even with minor traffic violations the system will keep failing.

    The reason people do not fear to do the wrong thing is they can easily contact a buddy in the police force and get the police entry revoked.

    So its not the death penalty per-se – its rules and firm adherence to those rules.

  • 1
    1

    Do you think the Death Penalty should be imposed on Leaders of Governments, Who start Wars to Kill People?

    Isn’t there a Better Way of controlling Dissatisfaction of a People, e.g By listening to their Grievances?

    • 1
      0

      Conversely, should there be the death penalty for people who resort to violent acts (suicide bombings, etc ) as a means of expressing their desires ?

      Is there a better way to air their grievances ?

  • 6
    1

    RMB,

    Generally I agree with most of what you got to say in your write ups. But in this instance I must disagree. The death penalty is only a side show that has not and will not bring the crime rate down.

    A better thing to ask is for the judicial system to be revamped and the judges held accountable. Another area that needs immediate cleaning up is the police service. To do that we need the politicians to lay their grubby hands off the police officers as well as the judiciary. If these two institutions do what they are supposed to do, I assure you there will be no need for the death penalty at all.

  • 2
    3

    For heinous crimes beyond human comprehension, it shouldn’t be called the death-penalty. It should be called death-necessity.

    Penalties are meant to punish and correct the offender, be a deterrent and cure for the greater society. But in crimes such as the rape and killing of children, the offenders are mad persons. Therefore, they should be put down or euthanized.

    Maybe the people who do such deeds are the same ones poor Jaffna women are screaming about. We have seen such stories in other wars, like in the Middle East and Europe, and the Japanese war.

    Such offenders very often have gone through shell shock and have post-traumatic disorder (although there are a few who are naturally mad that way, and advertisement of such crimes can also have a reflex-action on a few others with mental problems).

    Very often this disorder takes on an internal aggression and much personal suffering. Suicide usually ensues. Other times, the person is outwardly aggressive and vindictive, and can resort to inhuman-type crimes against others. They have been very difficult to catch and prosecute during and after the war situation.

    There is little cure for such things. Whenever positively identified as committing atrocious acts, they should be humanely put-down.

  • 3
    1

    Yes, those who have misled, misgoverned, looted, corrupted and killed, as our politicians and leaders at various levels. They should be vigorously pursued, prosecuted and if found guilty,shot in public by a firing squad, in every city, town and village in this country. They do not deserve any compassion, as their criminality has affected millions directly and destroyed the timbre of this country.

    Most criminal elements in society will then fall in line. The problem has to be tackled at its source.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

  • 5
    0

    It is easy for people to call for death penalty. The problem in Sri Lanka is with the police, AG’s department and judiciary. Under the penal code amendments there is a minimum punishment prescribed for the offence. Now the judges have a way out of this by giving suspended sentences. See (See Administration of justice and victims of sexual violence, May 13, 2015, 7:29 pm ​ – Article by prof Savitri Goonesekere)​. We can ask the AG, how many case are brought to them and how many have been filed. There is a backlog of cases. They take ages to file these cases. Then of course comes the overcrowded courts and the long time it takes for hearing of these cases. Then the lawyers asking for date and judges willingly postponing these cases.

    What we need is a system where judgements are given expeditiously. Death penalty may help but then judges would be more reluctant to order the death penalty as they seem to want discretionary powers to give suspended sentences. It may be even counter productive.

    We know that Min. Ranjan Ramanayake and the members of the public are enthusiastic in bringing back death penalty, but it will be ideal if they are also would ask for expeditious judgements and even have a separate courts to hear these cases.

  • 6
    1

    NO to the Death Penalty in Sri Lanka.

    Repeat, NO to the Death Penalty.

    Instead, a better deterrent would be

    better policing

    swift and sure justice

    consistent and commensurate sentencing

    Life should mean just that, Life imprisonment.

    Finally, NO Presidential/political pardons (and definitely no rewarding of convicted criminals with JP appointments).

    • 7
      1

      Spring Koha

      Can I also join you in the chanting?

      We say no to capital punishment.

      We say no to capital punishment.

      We say no to capital punishment.

      We say no to capital punishment.

      ……

      ……..

      • 3
        1

        Of course! I say let us all chant together.

        We say NO, We say NO

        We say NO to capital punishment.

      • 3
        1

        If the Buddhist President or PM want to bring back capital punishment, will he please hang the first convict himself?

        We say no to capital punishment.

  • 2
    1

    It seems the death penalty does not reduce serious crime. So we need a punishment worse than death.
    I suggest a radical alternative: Introduce torture for criminals like child rapists. The thought of a lifetime of daily torture should give them second thoughts. Also, this disposes of the problem of innocent parties being executed.

  • 1
    0

    O no, there would not be enough time to execute the Tamil prisoners officially. The system now allows mass execution on our will . So plese do not bring death penalty

  • 0
    1

    I note the comment by BBS. Let us consider why the death penalty has been used throughout history.It is because the people thought it was a deterrent. Why did they think so? Were they all mistaken? When we say it is not a deterrent we say it doesn’t deter everybody. Yes it may not deter all would be criminals but at least some may think twice. It is more a matter of perceptions than objective truths. But perceptions are the basis of the actions of the criminals.
    Of course no deterrent is a foolproof deterrent. Crime has a multiplicity of causes and the probability of getting caught is important
    In any case there is no hundred percent deterrent. But what is the proof that it will not deter at least some would be criminals. Of course the probability of getting caught is as important in any rational calculation of the chances and our probability is very low indeed.As old codger has said if death penalty is not a deterrent we need a more drastic deterrent. But punishments to deter crime are not perfect deterrents. But they can be deterrennts as long as people perceive them to be so.

    • 3
      0

      RMB,

      I still beg to differ.

      Well publicised, well dramatised killing of a prisoner is counterproductive in that it will go a long way in desensitising the mind of all observers, especially children. By and by state sanctioned killings will have a brutalising effect and in the long run instead of becoming a deterrent will instead become a non-deterrent.

      The need of the moment like many in this column have commented is better policing and a decent judiciary. Police must be allowed to do their job without political interference. The judiciary must be revamped to hear cases on a timely basis. Keeping on giving new dates to accommodate the irascible appetite of lawyers must be done away with. And all priosoners no matter how heinous the crime is must be made to work on public projects to help atone for their crimes.

  • 0
    1

    I forgot to add that the causes of evil are indeed complex and the deterrent value of punishment is limited. It may be a deterrent in the case of certain circumstances but not all.

  • 2
    0

    Which is more harsh: hanging until the criminal is dead, or, keeping in jail for the rest of the life under painful conditions? Discussion whether death sentence or jail serves society better is a discussion that should be confined to the brain dead.

    The surest medicine to drastically reduce crime is swift apprehension, start prosecution without dillydallying, conclude the hearing of the case in the quickest possible time, and enforce the punishment according to the law.

    Who are the criminals preventing above? Clearly the criminals are The Police, The Prosecution (Attorney General), The Lawyers for the Defence, and The Judges who encourage them.

    Swift apprehension etc (above) should be supplemented by punishments meted out (requires legislation) to Police, Prosecution, Defence Attorneys, and Judges who active delay or contribute to delaying the adjudication of a crime and meting out justice. For example, if a rape case is not concluded within one year, there should be a standard procedure to determine why. The person or persons within the above four categories who caused the delay should be fined such an amount as would cause him maximum pain. Send him to jail if he has no wealth to pay from. In other words, pre-sentencing enquiries will concern only how much wealth the criminal has, and fine will be determined accordingly. For example if a Judge has two houses, confiscate them both, compelling him to rent a house. Pain. You can imagine, then, that getting a defence lawyer to ask for an adjournment, or the judge to grant one will be next to impossible. Imagine a rape case is not concluded for 15 years. Where is the justice? Who will be afraid of the punishment for rape, murder or robbery? Everyone is talking about sending the Rajapakse gang to jail. Do you think they are worried? If they get the chance they will fart in the faces of the talkers. They have the money to get themselves out on bail, and the money to get postponements as they require. In the meantime they are enjoying life, and will continue to do so until they are dead. Everyone knows that.

    If the Police, Lawyers, and Judges are punished in this manner, premedidated crimes will disappear, and only crimes of passion will be there to deal with.

    Hope all the bullshit talk about “death or jail” will disappear once this is understood.

    But here is the problem … the mother of all problems. Do you think that our Parliament, refuge of The Rapist, The Murderer, The Fraudster, and The Gangster will pass the enabling legislation to jail the Judges, The Police and The Lawyers?

    [Edited out]

  • 1
    2

    I am pleased that the vast majority of Sri Lankans do not want the death penalty re-introduced. As a Buddhist nation it is apt because our courts are not infallible and once executed it cannot be rectified. Mankind is not qualified to pass judgement on other mankind. Even as a deterrent it is not valid because in USA the States that do have Capital Punishment endure the same number of murders as the States that do not. Also in USA in about 5 years, the legal group called Innocents have obtained the release of 185 convicted prisoners in Death Row after proving their innocence with DNA evidence. Imagine if these people had already been executed.

  • 0
    0

    Capital punishment for premeditated murder. No for unplanned murder following on the spur anger or rage

  • 1
    1

    Absolutely, the entire Rajapaksa family should be hung.

    • 0
      0

      Only pictures are ‘hung’. People are hanged.

  • 2
    0

    Death penalty is not the answer to the problems with regard to rising crime. The criminal Justice system needs a systematic review and change to meet the needs of problems today and address the potential issues in time to come.

    1. The police service should be made a civil public service as opposed to a defence force.
    2. It should be made independent and accountable void of political or any other type of influence.
    3. The Criminal procedure should be re vamped to international standards.
    4. Police training should be beefed up and on district level investigation departments should be strengthened with long term policy. Promotions should be based on performance in relation to 75% and seniority based promotions should be restricted to 25%.
    5. Police discipline and accountability should be strengthened.
    6. Lawyers and Judicial officers, police officers, court officers should have compulsory education and training requiring to follow compulsory assessments at least once in 5 years to keep up with procedure and Law.
    7. Law college should be run by a committee of 8 permanent staff Members, Principal, Deputy Principal, Registrar, Deputy Registrar, and 2 Lecturers one senior and one junior, 2 members from Colombo law faculty and Open University law department creating a full time body expanding the curriculum, decision making process to be transferred to such committee and the Council of Legal Education having a supervisory role only. Function of the Board of studies to be transferred to that committee and supervisory role to be kept by the Council of Legal Education.
    8. Law College should take the responsibility of running the continuing education courses for Lawyers, Court Staff, Police officers, Public prosecutors, Prison officers, Probation and Rehabilitation officers. Specialist courses should be designed to meet the needs.
    9. Police powers should be expanded where minor offenses could be dealt with fixed penalties without the need to attend court.
    10. An island wide state funded criminal defence service should be undertake replacing the legal aid system that is operating at present. All arrested citizens should have access to a lawyer. Early guilty pleas should be encouraged with a 1/3 discount.
    11. Public should have access to information with regard to persistent offenders and electronic tagging system should be introduced to such offenders on bail.

  • 3
    2

    Thats hypocrisy…….death penalty in a Buddhist country.Death Penalty is not justice its vengeance ! Wonder what kind of Buddhists are those Sri Lankans who wants the death penalty…!!?

  • 0
    1

    The President should not play a role in passing the final death sentence. As individuals and as Buddhists Presidents will feel uncomfortable in making the final decision on a person’s life.
    Death sentence should be made by the court hearing the case after taking all relevant issues into consideration.
    Parliament when expressing their opinion on the subject, as proposed, should also make this change.

    • 0
      0

      In the US, governors have the ability to commute death sentences. I think the President has the same powers

  • 0
    2

    Death penalty should be implemented quickly.Tommorrow itself all those on death row should be hanged.Hurry up.Quick quick quick before any more little girls are anally and vaginally penetrated and then strangled.Those who delay will be responsible for the next death.First hanging should start on next poya with everyone watching it on TV and clapping and shouting for joy.

  • 0
    0

    For all those who are against capital punishment.

    When a robber/rapist comes to your house welcome him with a drink open the Almirah and the safe whatever or wherever you have hidden your valuable jewelleries and the money put it in a bag and give it him tell the rest of the family members not to interfere and that you are doing a good deed.When the robber/rapist is leaving give him your credit card and the pin number and finally give in to him yourself or allow him to rape you. This way you have done a good deed.

    So a Big No for Capital punishment

  • 0
    0

    Why such a hurry to introduce the death penalty? Is it to clear the way for the anticipated convictions of the cronies of the previous regime because the prisons are already full?

    Is the penalty for wrong doing a punishment, deterrent or revenge? Whatever the reason, who has the right to take another human life? If this land is governed by Buddhist principals, then Buddhism is misrepresented. It is better to lock up a serious convict & throw away the key than execution. That will give meaning to the metaphor ‘rotting in hell’ in real life than in after life.

  • 0
    0

    RMBS seems to be pretty confused.

  • 0
    0

    If you think a Buddhist president and parliament could not pass laws that will take life away what about the criminal and the deceased. Who are they.what religion did he learn that he could just wanna like a small human body and also a harmless tiny body that cannot even contain the big humans tools had to tolerate and then die. I think all of us need to get off our holyerror than any other attitude and understand we have failed as a nation in what ever religion we thought our generations. So now the struggle should be to not argue while more happens but do what ever it takes to stop compleat no magazine palanaya of the mind. If we want ya ha palanaya then we must be a ya ha people. If we aren’t for Godsale sake do something and leave your comfort zones and don’t give stupid reasons like religion.it’s madness. A rapist and abuser is no good to society .just as much as he should be hung the question must be asked what did the parents of the accused do that he is like this.
    1.bring back sex education to schools
    2 bring counselling and sex eduction to parent meetings
    Bring in v. Firm laws to explain rape or abuse will not be Tollard Ted.
    Teach the nation to learn and observe your religion.

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 7 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.