CORPORAL PUNISHMENT THROUGH THE AGES AS WELL AS AN INSIGHT INTO PRESENT DAY CORPORAL PUNISHMENTS TOO, AS FEATURED AT THE CRIME THROUGH TIME COLLECTION HERE AT LITTLEDEAN JAIL
PUBLIC FLOGGING IN SAUDI ARABIA FOR DRINKING BEER
CORPORAL PUNISHMENT IN MALAYSIA FOR RAPE, ARMS ROBBERY , DRUGS ETC
ORIGINAL EARLY 18TH CENTURY HANDMADE OAK “VILLAGE PUNISHMENT STOCKS” RESTORED IN THE 19TH CENTURY WITH ADDITIONAL SUPPORTING IRONWORK AND PRESERVED FOR POSTERITY ….. AS CAN NOW BE SEEN AT LITTLEDEAN JAIL,LITTLEDEAN, FOREST OF DEAN, GLOUCESTERSHIRE, UK
Stocks are devices used in the internationally, in medieval, Renaissance and colonial American times as a form of physical punishment involving public humiliation. The stocks partially immobilized its victims and they were often exposed in a public place such as the site of a market to the scorn of those who passed by. Since the purpose of putting offenders in the stocks was to expose them to ridicule and mockery, passers-by were encouraged to throw mud, rotten eggs, moldy fruit and vegetables, smelly fish, offal, and excrement (both animal and human) at those being punished.
ABOVE AND BELOW : WITCHES DUCKING STOOL ON DISPLAY AT LITTLEDEAN JAIL
VARIOUS EARLY VICTORIAN LEATHER BOUND WHIPS AND CAT O’NINE TAILS USED WITHIN UK PRISONS ….. HERE ON DISPLAY AT LITTLEDEAN JAIL
VARIOUS WHIPS, CAT O’NINE TAILS , BLUDGEON AND LEATHER BOUND HANDCUFFS USED WITHIN UK PRISONS HERE ON DISPLAY AT LITTLEDEAN JAIL
VARIOUS EARLY VICTORIAN LEATHER BOUND WHIPS AND CAT O’NINE TAILS USED WITHIN UK PRISONS ….. HERE ON DISPLAY AT LITTLEDEAN JAIL
CLOSE-UP IMAGE OF ROUND HANDLED LEATHER BOUND EARLY VICTORIAN WHIP USED WITHIN UK PRISONS
EARLY VICTORIAN BLACK CLOTH BOUND, ROUND HANDLED CAT O’NINE TAILS USED IN UK PRISONS
EARLY VICTORIAN FLAT HANDLED CAT O’NINE TAILS USED IN UK PRISONS
CLOSE UP IMAGE OF VICTORIAN LEATHER BOUND HAND RESTRIANTS AS USED HERE AT LITTLEDEAN JAIL
EARLY VICTORIAN LEATHER BOUND BODY RESTRAINT WITH ATTACHED HAND CUFFS USED IN UK PRISONS AND NOW ON DISPLAY AT LITTLEDEAN JAIL
CLOSE UP OF ABOVE
CLOSE UP OF ABOVE
PRISON WARDEN INSCRIBED 18TH CENTURY TRUNCHEON AND EARLY VICTORIAN BODY RESTRAINT BELT HERE ON DISPLAY
INSCRIBED GEORGE 1ST PRISON WARDEN TRUNCHEON HERE ON DISPLAY AT LITTLEDEAN JAIL
EARLY VICTORIAN BLUDGEON USED IN UK PRISONS …. HERE ON DISPLAY AT THE JAIL WITH PRISON WARDEN TRUNCHEON AND HIATT STEEL HANDCUFFS
EARLY VICTORIAN BLUDGEON USED IN UK PRISONS
CLOSE-UP OF HIATT STEEL HANDCUFFS
Corporal punishment is a form of physical punishment that involves the deliberate infliction of pain as retribution for an offence, or for the purpose of disciplining or reforming a wrongdoer, or to deter attitudes or behaviour deemed unacceptable. The term usually refers to methodically striking the offender with an implement, whether in judicial, domestic, or educational settings.
Corporal punishment may be divided into three main types:
Corporal punishment of minors within domestic settings is lawful in all 50 of the United States and, according to a 2000 survey, is widely approved by parents.It has been officially outlawed in 29 countries.
Corporal punishment in school is still legal in some parts of the world, including 20 of the States of the USA, but has been outlawed in other places, including Canada, Kenya, Japan, South Africa, New Zealand, and nearly all of Europe except the Czech Republic and France.
Judicial corporal punishment has virtually disappeared from the western world but remains in force in many parts of Africa and Asia.
History of corporal punishment
The practice was recorded as early as c. 10th Century BC in Book of Proverbs attributed to Solomon:
He that spareth the rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him correcteth him betimes.
Withhold not correction from a child: for if thou strike him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and deliver his soul from hell.
It was certainly present in classical civilisations, being used in Greece, Rome, and Egypt for both judicial and educational discipline. Some states gained a reputation for using such punishments cruelly; Sparta, in particular, used them as part of a disciplinary regime designed to build willpower and physical strength. Although the Spartan example was extreme, corporal punishment was possibly the most frequent type of punishment. In the Roman Empire, the maximum penalty that a Roman citizen could receive under the law was 40 “lashes” or “strokes” with a whip applied to the back and shoulders, or with the “fasces” (similar to a birch rod, but consisting of 8–10 lengths of willow rather than birch) applied to the buttocks. Such punishments could draw blood, and were frequently inflicted in public.
In Medieval Europe, corporal punishment was encouraged by the attitudes of the medieval church towards the human body, flagellation being a common means of self-discipline. This had an influence on the use of corporal punishment in schools, as educational establishments were closely attached to the church during this period. Nevertheless, corporal punishment was not used uncritically; as early as the eleventh century Saint Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury was speaking out against what he saw as the excessive use of corporal punishment in the treatment of children.
From the 16th century onwards, new trends were seen in corporal punishment. Judicial punishments were increasingly turned into public spectacles, with public beatings of criminals intended as a deterrent to other would-be offenders. Meanwhile, early writers on education, such as Roger Ascham, complained of the arbitrary manner in which children were punished. Perhaps the most influential writer on the subject was the English philosopher John Locke, whose Some Thoughts Concerning Education explicitly criticised the central role of corporal punishment in education. Locke’s work was highly influential, and may have helped influence Polish legislators to ban corporal punishment from Poland’s schools in 1783.
During the 18th century, the concept of corporal punishment was attacked by some philosophers and legal reformers. Merely inflicting pain on miscreants was seen as inefficient, influencing the subject only for a short period of time and effecting no permanent change in their behaviour. Some believed that the purpose of punishment should be reformation, not retribution. This is perhaps best expressed in Jeremy Bentham’s idea of a panoptic prison, in which prisoners were controlled and surveyed at all times, perceived to be advantageous in that this system supposedly reduced the need of measures such as corporal punishment.
A consequence of this mode of thinking was a reduction in the use of corporal punishment in the 19th century in Europe and North America. In some countries this was encouraged by scandals involving individuals seriously hurt during acts of corporal punishment. For instance, in Britain, popular opposition to punishment was encouraged by two significant cases, the death of Private Frederick John White, who died after a military flogging in 1846, and the death of Reginald Cancellor, who was killed by his schoolmaster in 1860. Events such as these mobilised public opinion, and in response, many countries introduced thorough regulation of the infliction of corporal punishment in state institutions such as schools, prisons and reformatories.
In the 1870s, courts in the United States overruled the common-law principle that a husband had the right to “physically chastise an errant wife”. In the UK the traditional right of a husband to inflict moderate corporal punishment on his wife in order to keep her “within the bounds of duty” was similarly removed in 1891. See Domestic violence for more information.
In the United Kingdom, the use of judicial corporal punishment declined during the first half of the 20th century and it was abolished altogether in 1948, while most other European countries had abolished it earlier. Meanwhile in many schools, the use of the cane, paddle or tawse remained commonplace in the UK and the United States until the 1980s. In several other countries, it still is: seeSchool corporal punishment.
Corporal punishment in the home
Domestic corporal punishment, i.e. of children and teenagers by their parents, is usually referred to colloquially as “spanking“, “whipping“, “smacking,” or “slapping.” One possible method of spanking is to have the child or teenager lying, stomach down, across the parent’s lap, with the parent bringing their open hand down upon the child’s buttocks. Alternatively, the youngster might be told to bend over, or lie face down across a bed. Spankings may be delivered over the trousers, over the undergarments, or upon the bare buttocks.
In an increasing number of countries it has been outlawed, starting with Sweden in 1979. In some other countries, corporal punishment is legal, but restricted (e.g. blows to the head are outlawed and implements may not be used, and/or only children within a certain age range may be spanked).
In the United States and all African and most Asian nations, “spanking,” “whipping,” “smacking,” or “slapping” by parents is currently legal; it is also legal to use certain implements such as a belt or paddle.
In Canada, spanking by parents or legal guardians (but nobody else) is legal, as long as the child is not under 2 years or over 12 years of age, and no implement other than an open, bare hand is used (belts, paddles, etc. are strictly prohibited). Provinces can legally impose tighter restrictions than the aforementioned national restrictions, but none currently does so.
In the UK, spanking or smacking is legal, but it may not leave a mark on the body and in Scotland since October 2003 it has been illegal to use any implements when disciplining a child.
In Pakistan, Section 89 of Pakistan Penal Code allows corporal punishment. The Government of Pakistan has yet to repeal this law.
Corporal punishment in schools
Legal corporal punishment of school students for misbehaviour involves striking the student on the buttocks or the palm of the hand in a premeditated ceremony with an implement specially kept for the purpose such as a rattan cane or spanking paddle, or with the open hand.
Judicial or quasi-judicial punishment
Countries with judicial corporal punishment
Some countries retain judicial corporal punishment, including a number of former British territories such as Botswana, Malaysia, Singapore and Tanzania. In Malaysia and Singapore, for certain specified offences, males are routinely sentenced to caning in addition to a prison term. The Singaporean practice of caning became much discussed around the world in 1994 when American teenager Michael P. Fay was caned for vandalism.
A number of countries with an Islamic legal system, such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Sudan and northern Nigeria, employ judicial whipping for a range of offences. As of 2009, some regions of Pakistan are experiencing a breakdown of law and government, leading to a reintroduction of corporal punishment by ad hocIslamicist courts. As well as corporal punishment, some Islamic countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran use other kinds of physical penalties such asamputation or mutilation. However, the term “corporal punishment” has since the 19th century usually meant caning, flogging or whipping rather than those other types of physical penalty.
Pros and cons of corporal punishment
According to its proponents, corporal punishment offers several advantages over other kinds of punishment, such as that it is quicker to implement, costs nothing, and deters unruliness.
The American Psychological Association opposes the use of corporal punishment in schools, juvenile facilities, child care nurseries, and all other institutions, public or private, where children are cared for or educated. It claims that corporal punishment is violent and unnecessary, may lower self-esteem, and is liable to instil hostility and rage without reducing the undesired behaviour. The APA also states that corporal punishment is likely to train children to use physical violence.
The professor of philosophy, David Benatar, points out that using this last argument, fining people also teaches that forcing others to give up some of their property is an acceptable response to unwanted behaviour in others. “Why don’t detentions, imprisonments, fines, and a multitude of other punishments convey equally undesirable messages?” According to Benatar, the key difference lies in the legitimacy of the authority administering the punishment: “[T]here is all the difference in the world between legitimate authorities—the judiciary, parents, or teachers—using punitive powers responsibly to punish wrongdoing, and children or private citizens going around beating each other, locking each other up, and extracting financial tributes (such as lunch money). There is a vast moral difference here and there is no reason why children should not learn about it. Punishing children when they do wrong seems to be one important way of doing this.”
Kay Hymowitz in her book, Who Killed Discipline in School? states, “Ask Americans what worries them most about public schools and the answer might surprise you; discipline. For several decades now, poll after poll shows it topping the list of parents’ concerns. Hymowitz says that, “the public’s sense that something has gone drastically wrong with school discipline isn’t mistaken. Over the past thirty years or so, the courts and federal government have hacked away at the power of educators to maintain a safe and civil school environment.”
Different parts of the anatomy may be targeted:
- The buttocks, whether clothed or bare, have often been targeted for punishment, particularly in Europe and the English-speaking world. Indeed, some languages have a specific word for their chastisement: spanking in English, fessée in French, nalgada in Spanish (both Romanesque words directly derived from the word for buttock). The advantage is that these fleshy body parts are robust and can be chastised accurately, without endangering any bodily functions; they heal well and relatively quickly; in some cultures punishment applied to the buttocks entails a degree of humiliation, which may or may not be intended as part of the punishment.
- Chastising the back of the thighs and calves, as sometimes in South Korean schools, is at least as painful if not more so, but this can cause more damage in terms of scars and bruising.
- The upper back and the shoulders have historically been a target for whipping, e.g. in the UK with the cat-o’-nine-tails in the Royal Navy and in some pre-1948 judicial punishments, and also today generally in the Middle East and the Islamic world.
- The head is a very dangerous place to hit, especially “boxing the ears“.
- The hand is very sensitive and delicate, and use of an implement could cause excessive damage.
- The soles of the feet are extremely sensitive, and flogging them (falaka), as has been sometimes done in the Middle East, is excruciating.
Ritual and punishment
Corporal punishment in official settings, such as schools and prisons, has typically been carried out as a formal ceremony, with a standard procedure, emphasising the solemnity of the occasion. It may even be staged in a ritual manner in front of other students/inmates, in order to act as a deterrent to others.
In the case of prison or judicial punishments, formal punishment might begin with the offender stripped of some or all of their clothing and secured to a piece of furniture, such as a trestle or frame,(X-cross), punishment horse or falaka. In some cases the nature of the offence is read out and the sentence (consisting of a predetermined number of strokes) is formally imposed. A variety of implements may be used to inflict blows on the offender. The terms used to describe these are not fixed, varying by country and by context. There are, however, a number of common types that are encountered when reading about corporal punishment. These include:
- The rod. A thin, flexible rod is often called a switch.
- The birch, a number of strong, flexible branches of birch or similar wood, bound together with twine into a single implement.
- The rattan cane (not bamboo as it is often wrongly described). Much favoured in the British Commonwealth for both school and judicial use.
- The paddle, a flat wooden board with a handle, with or without holes. Used in US schools.
- The strap. A leather strap with a number of tails at one end, called a tawse, was used in schools in Scotland and some parts of northern England.
- The whip, typically of leather. Varieties include the Russian knout and South African sjambok, in addition to the scourge and the French martinet.
- The cat o’ nine tails was used in British naval discipline and as a judicial and prison punishment.
- The hairbrush and belt were traditionally used in the United States and Britain as an implement for domestic spanking.
- The plimsoll or gym shoe, used in British and Commonwealth schools, often called “the slipper”. See Slippering (punishment).
- The ferula, in Jesuit schools, as vividly described in a scene in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.
In some instances the offender is required to prepare the implement himself. For instance, sailors were employed in preparing the cat o’ nine tails that would be used upon their own back, while school students were sometimes sent out to cut a switch or rod.
In contrast, informal punishments, particularly in domestic settings, tend to lack this ritual nature and are often administered with whatever object comes to hand. It is common, for instance, for belts, wooden spoons, slippers, hairbrushes or coathangers to be used in domestic punishment, while rulers and other classroom equipment have been used in schools.
In parts of England, boys were once beaten under the old tradition of “Beating the Bounds” whereby a boy was paraded around the edge of a city or parish and would be spanked with a switch or cane to mark the boundary. One famous “Beating the Bounds” took place around the boundary of St Giles and the area where Tottenham Court Road now stands in central London. The actual stone that separated the boundary is now underneath the Centre Point office tower.
Corporal punishment, paraphilia and fetishism
The German psychologist Richard von Krafft-Ebing suggested that a tendency to sadism and masochism may develop out of the experience of children receiving corporal punishment at school. But this was disputed by Sigmund Freud, who found that, where there was a sexual interest in beating or being beaten, it developed in early childhood, and rarely related to actual experiences of punishment.
Capital punishment in the United Kingdom was used from the creation of the state in 1707 until the practice was abolished in the twentieth century. The last executions in the United Kingdom, by hanging, took place in 1964, prior to capital punishment being abolished for murder (in 1969 in Great Britain and in 1973 in Northern Ireland). Although not applied since, the death penalty remained on the statute book for certain other offences until 1998.
Sir Samuel Romilly, speaking to the House of Commons on capital punishment in 1810, declared that “…(there is) no country on the face of the earth in which there [have] been so many different offences according to law to be punished with death as in England.” Known as the “Bloody Code“, at its height the criminal law included some 220 crimes punishable by death, including “being in the company of Gypsies for one month”, “strong evidence of malice in a child aged 7–14 years of age” and “blacking the face or using a disguise whilst committing a crime”. Many of these offences had been introduced to protect the property of the wealthy classes that emerged during the first half of the 18th century, a notable example being the Black Act of 1723, which created 50 capital offences for various acts of theft and poaching.Background
Whilst executions for murder, burglary and robbery were common, the death sentences for minor offenders were often not carried out. However, children were commonly executed for such minor crimes as stealing. A sentence of death could be commuted or respited (permanently postponed) for reasons such as benefit of clergy, official pardons, pregnancy of the offender or performance of military or naval duty. Between 1770 and 1830, 35,000 death sentences were handed down in England and Wales, but only 7,000 executions were carried out.
There were prisons, but they were mostly small, old and badly-run. Common punishments included transportation — sending the offender to America, Australia or Van Diemens Land (Tasmania), or execution — hundreds of offences carried the death penalty. By the 1830s people were having doubts about both these punishments. The answer was prison: lots of new prisons were built and old ones extended. The Victorians also had clear ideas about what these prisons should be like. They should be unpleasant places, so as to deter people from committing crimes. Once inside, prisoners had to be made to face up to their own faults, by keeping them in silence and making them do hard, boring work. Walking a treadwheel or picking oakum (separating strands of rope) were the most common forms of hard labour.
In 1808 Romilly had the death penalty removed for pickpockets and lesser offenders, starting a process of reform that continued over the next 50 years. The death penalty was mandatory (although it was frequently commuted by the government) until the Judgement of Death Act 1823 gave judges the power to commute the death penalty except for treason and murder. The Punishment of Death, etc. Act 1832 reduced the number of capital crimes by two-thirds. Gibbeting was abolished in 1832 and hanging in chains was abolished in 1834. In 1861, several acts of Parliament (24 & 25 Vict; c. 94 to c. 100) further reduced the number of civilian capital crimes to five: murder, treason, espionage, arson in royal dockyards, and piracy with violence; there were other offences under military law. The death penalty remained mandatory for treason and murder unless commuted.
The Royal Commission on Capital Punishment 1864-1866  concluded (with dissenting Commissioners) that there was not a case for abolition but recommended an end to public executions. This proposal was included in the Capital Punishment Amendment Act 1868. From then executions in Great Britain were carried out in prison. The practice of beheading and quartering executed traitors stopped in 1870.
Juveniles under 16 could no longer be executed from 1908 under the Children Act 1908. In 1922 a new offence of Infanticide was introduced to replace the charge of murder for mothers killing their children in the first year of life. In 1930 a parliamentary Select Committee recommended that capital punishment be suspended for a trial period of five years, but no action was taken. From 1931 pregnant women could no longer be hanged (following the birth of their child) although in practice since the 18th century their sentences had always been commuted, and in 1933 the minimum age for capital punishment was raised to 18 under the Children and Young Persons Act 1933. The last known execution by the civilian courts of a person under 18 was that of Charles Dobel, 17, hanged atMaidstone together with his accomplice William Gower, 18, in January 1889.
In 1938 the issue of the abolition of capital punishment was brought before parliament. A clause within the Criminal Justice Bill called for an experimental five-year suspension of the death penalty. When war broke out in 1939 the bill was postponed. It was revived after the war and to everyone’s surprise was adopted by a majority in the House of Commons (245 to 222). In the House of Lords the abolition clause was defeated but the remainder of the bill was passed. Popular support for abolition was absent and the government decided that it would be inappropriate for it to assert its supremacy by invoking the Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949 over such an unpopular issue.
Instead, then Home Secretary, James Chuter Ede, set up a new Royal Commission (the Royal Commission on Capital Punishment, 1949–1953) with instructions to determine “whether the liability to suffer capital punishment should be limited or modified”. The Commission’s report discussed a number of alternatives to execution by hanging (including the US methods of electrocution and gassing, and the then-theoretical lethal injection), but rejected them. It had more difficulty with the principle of capital punishment. Popular opinion believed that the death penalty acted as a deterrent to criminals, but the statistics within the report were inconclusive. Whilst the report recommended abolition from an ethical standpoint, it made no mention of possible miscarriages of justice. The public had by then expressed great dissatisfaction with the verdict in the case of Timothy Evans, who was tried and hanged for murdering his baby daughter in 1949. It later transpired in 1953 that John Christie had strangled at least six women in the same house; if the jury in Evans’s trial had known this, Evans would probably not have been found guilty. There were other cases in the same period where doubts arose over convictions and subsequent hangings, such as the notorious case of Derek Bentley.
The Commission concluded that unless there was overwhelming public support in favour of abolition, the death penalty should be retained.
Between 1900 and 1949, 621 men and 11 women were executed in England and Wales. Ten German agents were executed during the First World War under the Defence of the Realm Act 1914, and 16 spies were executed during the Second World War under the Treachery Act 1940.
By 1957 a number of controversial cases highlighted the issue of capital punishment again. Campaigners for abolition were partially rewarded with the Homicide Act 1957. The Act brought in a distinction between capital and non-capital homicide. Only six categories of murder were now punishable by execution:
- in the course or furtherance of theft
- by shooting or causing an explosion
- while resisting arrest or during an escape
- of a police officer
- of a prison officer by a prisoner
- the second of two murders committed on different occasions (if both done in Great Britain).
The police and the government were of the opinion that the death penalty deterred offenders from carrying firearms and it was for this reason that such offences remained punishable by death.
The only known photograph of the death sentence being pronounced in England and Wales, for the poisoner Frederick Seddon in 1912
In 1965 the Labour MP Sydney Silverman, who had committed himself to the cause of abolition for more than 20 years, introduced a private member’s bill to suspend the death penalty, which was passed on a free vote in the House of Commons by 200 votes to 98. The bill was subsequently passed by the House of Lords by 204 votes to 104.
The Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act 1965 suspended the death penalty in England, Wales and Scotland (but not in Northern Ireland) for murder for a period of five years, and substituted a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment; it further provided that if, before the expiry of the five-year suspension, each House of Parliament passed a resolution to make the effect of the Act permanent, then it would become permanent. In 1969 the Home Secretary, James Callaghan, proposed a motion to make the Act permanent, which was carried in the Commons on 16 December 1969, and a similar motion was carried in the Lords on 18 December. The death penalty for murder was abolished in Northern Ireland on 25 July 1973 under the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1973.
Following the abolition of the death penalty for murder, the House of Commons held a vote during each subsequent parliament until 1997 to restore the death penalty. This motion was always defeated, but the death penalty still survived for other crimes:
- causing a fire or explosion in a naval dockyard, ship, magazine or warehouse (until 1971);
- espionage (until 1981);
- piracy with violence (until 1998);
- treason (until 1998); and
- certain purely military offences under the jurisdiction of the armed forces, such as mutiny (until 1998). Prior to its complete abolition in 1998, it was available for six offences:
- serious misconduct in action;
- assisting the enemy;
- obstructing operations;
- giving false air signals;
- mutiny or incitement to mutiny; and
- failure to suppress a mutiny with intent to assist the enemy.
However no executions were carried out in the United Kingdom for any of these offences, after the abolition of the death penalty for murder.
Nevertheless, there remained a working gallows at HMP Wandsworth, London, until 1994, which was tested every six months until 1992. This gallows is now housed in the Galleries of Justice inNottingham.
England and in the United Kingdom: on 13 August 1964, Peter Anthony Allen, at Walton Prison in Liverpool, and Gwynne Owen Evans, at Strangeways Prison in Manchester, were executed for the murder of John Alan West on 7 April that year.
Scotland: Henry John Burnett, 21, on 15 August 1963 in Craiginches Prison, Aberdeen, for the murder of seaman Thomas Guyan.
Northern Ireland: Robert McGladdery, 25, on 20 December 1961 in Crumlin Road Gaol, Belfast, for the murder of Pearl Gamble.
Wales: Vivian Teed, 24, in Swansea on 6 May 1958, for the murder of William Williams, sub-postmaster of Fforestfach Post Office.
Last death sentences
Northern Ireland and in the United Kingdom: William Holden in 1973 in Northern Ireland, for the capital murder of a British soldier during the Troubles. Holden was removed from the death cell in May 1973.
England: David Chapman, who was sentenced to hang in November 1965 for the murder of a swimming pool nightwatchman in Scarborough. He was released from prison in 1979 and later died in a car accident.
Scotland: Patrick McCarron in 1964 for shooting his wife. He hanged himself in prison in 1970.
Wales: Edgar Black, who was reprieved on 6 November 1963. He had shot his wife’s lover in Cardiff.
The Criminal Damage Act 1971 abolished the offence of arson in royal dockyards.
The Naval Discipline Act 1957 reduced the scope of capital espionage from “all spies for the enemy” to spies on naval ships or bases. Later, the Armed Forces Act 1981 abolished the death penalty for espionage. (The Official Secrets Act 1911 had created another offence of espionage which carried a maximum sentence of fourteen years.)
Beheading was abolished as a method of execution for treason in 1973. However hanging remained available until 1998 when, under a House of Lords amendment to the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, proposed by Lord Archer of Sandwell, the death penalty was abolished for treason and piracy with violence, replacing it with a discretionary maximum sentence of life imprisonment. These were the last civilian offences punishable by death.
On 20 May 1998 the House of Commons voted to ratify the 6th Protocol of the European Convention on Human Rights prohibiting capital punishment except “in time of war or imminent threat of war.” The last remaining provisions for the death penalty under military jurisdiction (including in wartime) were removed when section 21(5) of the Human Rights Act 1998 came into force on 9 November 1998. On 10 October 2003, effective from 1 February 2004, the UK acceded to the 13th Protocol, which prohibits the death penalty under all circumstances, so that the UK may no longer legislate to restore the death penalty while it is subject to the Convention. It can only now restore it if it withdraws from the Council of Europe.
As a legacy from colonial times, several islands in the West Indies still had the British Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as the court of final appeal; although the death penalty has been retained in these islands, the Privy Council would sometimes delay or deny executions. Some of these islands severed links with the British court system in 2001 in order to speed up executions.
Although not part of the United Kingdom, the Isle of Man and the bailiwicks of Guernsey and Jersey are British Crown dependencies.
In the Channel Islands, the last death sentence was passed in 1984; the last execution in the Channel Islands was in Jersey on 9 October 1959, when Francis Joseph Huchet was hanged for murder. The Human Rights (Amendment) (Jersey) Order 2006 amends the Human Rights (Jersey) Law 2000 to give effect to the 13th Protocol of the European Convention on Human Rightsproviding for the total abolition of the death penalty. Both of these laws came into effect on 10 December 2006. The 13th Protocol was extended to Guernsey in April 2004.
The last execution on the Isle of Man took place in 1872, when John Kewish was hanged for patricide. Capital punishment was not formally abolished by Tynwald (the island’s parliament) until 1993.Five persons were sentenced to death (for murder) on the Isle of Man between 1973 and 1992, although all sentences were commuted to life imprisonment. The last person to be sentenced to death in the UK or its dependencies was Anthony Teare, who was convicted at the Manx Court of General Gaol Delivery in Douglas in 1992; he was subsequently retried and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1994. In 2004 the 13th Protocol was adopted, with an effective date of 1 November 2006.
Like the Crown dependencies, the British overseas territories are constitutionally not part of the United Kingdom. However, the British government’s ultimate responsibility for good governance of the territories has led it over recent years to pursue a policy of revoking all statutory provision for the death penalty in those territories where it had up until recently been legal.
The last executions in an overseas territory, and indeed the last on British soil, took place in Bermuda in 1977, when two men, Larry Tacklyn and Erskine Burrows, were hanged for the 1973 murder of the then territory’s Governor Sir Richard Sharples.
In 1991, the British government extended an Order in Council to its Caribbean territories whose effect was to abolish capital punishment for murder: Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Montserrat and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
The British government was unable to extend the abolition via Order in Council to Bermuda, the UK’s most autonomous overseas territory with powers of almost total self-governance — but warned that if voluntary abolition was not forthcoming it would be forced to consider the unprecedented step of ‘whether to impose abolition by means of an Act of Parliament’. As a result the Bermudian government introduced its own domestic legislation in 1999 to rectify the problem.
Further measures have subsequently been adopted to revoke technicalities in British overseas territories’ domestic legislation as regards use of the death penalty for crimes of treason and piracy. Since 2002, the death penalty has been outlawed under all circumstances in all the UK’s overseas territories.
Public support for reintroduction of capital punishment
A November 2009 television survey showed that 70% favoured reinstating the death penalty for at least one of the following crimes: armed robbery, rape, crimes related to paedophilia, terrorism, adult murder, child murder, child rape, treason, child abuse, or kidnapping. However, respondents only favoured capital punishment for adult murder, the polling question asked by other organisations such asGallup, by small majorities or pluralities: overall, 51% favoured the death penalty for adult murder, while 56% in Wales did, 55% in Scotland, and only 49% in England.
In August 2011, the Internet blogger Paul Staines – who writes a political blog as Guido Fawkes and heads the Restore Justice Camptign – launched an e-petition on the Downing Street website calling for the restoration of the death penalty for those convicted of the murder of children and police officers. The petition was one of several in support or opposition of capital punishment to be published by the government with the launch of its e-petitions website. As of August 12, an e-petition calling to retain the ban on capital punishment has received 20,000 votes, 17000 more than the e-petition calling for the reinstatement of the death penalty. Petitions attracting 100,000 signatures would prompt a parliamentary debate on a particular topic, but not necessarily lead to any Parliamentary Bills being put forward.
Also in August 2011, a representative survey conducted by Angus Reid Public Opinion showed that 65 per cent of Britons support reinstating the death penalty for murder in Great Britain, while 28 per cent oppose this course of action. Men, respondents aged 35-to-54 and those over the age of 55 are more likely to endorse the change.
Notable executions in the United Kingdom
Note: This list does not include the beheadings of nobility.
- 1724, 16 November: Jack Sheppard, housebreaker, was hanged at Tyburn for burglary after four successful escape attempts from jail. His partner-in-crime, highwayman Joseph “Blueskin” Blake, was executed for the same burglary five days earlier.
- 1725, 24 May: Jonathan Wild, criminal overlord and fraudulent “Thief Taker General”, was hanged at Tyburn (over six months after Jack Sheppard’s and Blueskin’s executions) for receiving stolen goods and thus aiding criminals.
- 1739: Dick Turpin, highwayman, was hanged.
- 1746, 30 July: nine Catholic members of the Manchester Regiment, Jacobites, were hanged, drawn and quartered for treason at Kennington Common (now Kennington Park).
- 1750: James MacLaine, ‘The Gentleman Highwayman’, was hanged at Tyburn, London
- 1757: John Byng became the only British admiral executed, by firing squad by the Royal Navy. His crime was to have failed to “do his utmost” at the Battle of Minorca during the Seven Years War.
- 1760, 5 May: Laurence Shirley, 4th Earl Ferrers was executed at Tyburn for the murder of a servant. He is the only peer to have been hanged for murder.
- 1789: Catherine Murphy was the last woman to be burned to death (legally) in England. The penalty was abolished the next year.
- 1812, 18 May: John Bellingham was hanged for the murder of Prime Minister Spencer Perceval.
- 1820: Andrew Hardie and John Baird were hanged and beheaded at Stirling after being tried for their part in the Radical War in Scotland.
- 1828, 11 August: William Corder was hanged at Bury St Edmunds for the murder of Maria Marten at the Red Barn a year before.
- 1856, 9 August: Martha Brown was the last woman to be hanged in public, in Dorset.
- 1861, 27 August: Martin Doyle was the last person to be hanged for attempted murder, at Chester.
- 1868, 2 April: Frances Kidder was the last woman to be hanged in public.
- 1868, 26 May: Michael Barrett was executed at Newgate Prison for the Fenian bombing at Clerkenwell, the last public hanging in the UK.
- 1899, 19 July: Mary Ansell was hanged at St Albans, for poisoning her sister. At 22 she was the youngest woman to be hanged in the post-1868 ‘modern era’ (non-public, and by the ‘long drop’ method).
- 1910, 23 November: Hawley Harvey Crippen was hanged in London’s Pentonville Prison for the murder of his wife.
- 1914, 8 September: Private Thomas Highgate was executed by firing squad, the first British soldier to be executed for desertion during World War I.
- 1915, 13 August: George Joseph Smith was hanged in Maidstone Prison for the pattern of serial killings known as the “Brides in the Bath Murders”.
- 1916, 3 August: Roger Casement was hanged at Pentonville for treason as one of the seven leaders of the failed Irish Easter Rising.
- 1920, 2 November: Private James Daly of the Connaught Rangers was shot for mutiny in India, the last member of the British Armed Forces to be executed for mutiny.
- 1923, 9 January: Edith Thompson and Frederick Bywaters, in London’s Holloway and Pentonville Prisons respectively. The case was controversial because Thompson did not directly participate in the murder for which she was hanged.
- 1931, 3 January: Victor Betts for murder committed during the course of a robbery. The case had established that a person need not be present when a crime is committed to be regarded as an accessory after the fact.
- 1941, 15 August: Josef Jakobs was executed by firing squad, the last execution in the Tower of London.
- 1946, 3 January: William Joyce, better known as “Lord Haw-Haw“, for treason in London’s Wandsworth Prison. He was an American citizen, but was convicted of treason because, as the holder of aBritish passport (albeit fraudulently obtained), he was held to have owed allegiance to the British sovereign. Theodore Schurch, hanged for treachery the next day, was the last person to be executed for an offence other than murder; he was executed at Pentonville. As a member of the armed forces he had been tried by court-martial.
- 1947, 27 February: Walter Rowland in Manchester for the murder of Olive Balchin despite maintaining his innocence. While he had been awaiting execution, another man confessed to the crime. A Home Office report dismissed the latter’s confession as a fake, but in 1951 he attacked another woman and was found guilty but insane.
- 1949, 12 January: Margaret Allen, aged 43, for killing a 70-year-old woman in the course of a robbery, the first woman to be hanged in Britain for 12 years.
- 1949, 10 August: John George Haigh, the “acid-bath murderer”, at Wandsworth.
- 1950, 9 March: Timothy Evans at Pentonville for the murder of his baby daughter Geraldine at 10 Rillington Place, North West London. He initially claimed to have killed his wife, but later withdrew the claim. A fellow inhabitant at the same address, John Christie, later found to be a sexual serial killer, gave key evidence against Evans. Christie was executed in 1953 for the murder of his own wife. Evans received a posthumous pardon in 1966. In 2004 the Court of Appeal refused to consider overturning the conviction due to the costs and resources that would be involved. See John Christie (murderer).
- 1950, 28 March: George Kelly at Liverpool for murder, but had his conviction quashed posthumously by the Court of Appeal in June 2003.
- 1952, 25 April: Edward Devlin and Alfred Burns, for killing a woman during a robbery in Liverpool. They claimed that they had been doing a different burglary in Manchester, and others involved in the crime supported this. A Home Office report rejected this evidence. Huge crowds gathered outside Liverpool’s Walton Prison as they were executed.
- 1952, 3 September: Mahmood Hussein Mattan, a Somali seaman, in Cardiff for murder. The Court of Appeal quashed his conviction posthumously in 1998 after hearing that crucial evidence implicating another Somali was withheld at his trial.
- 1953, 28 January: Derek Bentley at Wandsworth Prison as an accomplice to the murder of a police officer by his 16-year-old friend Christopher Craig. Craig, a minor, was not executed and instead served 10 years. Bentley was granted a posthumous pardon on 29 July 1993, and the Court of Appeal overturned his conviction on 30 July 1998.
- 1953, 15 July: John Reginald Halliday Christie at Pentonville for the murder of his wife Ethel. Christie was a serial killer and had murdered at least six other women.
- 1954, 13 December: Styllou Christofi, aged 53, penultimate woman executed in Britain.
- 1955, 12 July: Ruth Ellis, aged 28, the last woman to be hanged in Britain. She was the 15th and youngest woman hanged in the 20th century. (See also Mary Ansell, above).
- 1958, 6 May: Vivian Teed, 24, in Swansea, the last person to be executed in Wales.
- 1958, 11 July: Peter Manuel, aged 31, second to last person to be hanged in HM Prison Barlinnie and the third to last to be hanged in Scotland.
- 1959, 9 October: Francis Joseph Huchet, 31, in St Helier, Jersey, the last person to be executed in the Channel Islands.
- 1959, 5 November: Guenther Podola, the last person to be hanged for the murder of a policeman.
- 1960, 10 November: Francis Forsyth, the last 18-year-old to be executed in Britain;
- 1960, 22 December: Anthony Miller, 19, in Glasgow‘s Barlinnie Prison, the last teenager to be executed in Britain.
- 1961, 20 December: Robert McGladdery, 25, in Crumlin Road Gaol in Belfast, the last person to be executed in Northern Ireland, for the murder of Pearl Gamble in Newry.
- 1962, 4 April: James Hanratty at Bedford after a controversial rape-murder trial. In 2002 Hanratty’s body was exhumed and the Court of Appeal upheld his conviction after Hanratty’s DNA was linked to crime scene samples.
- 1963, 15 August: Henry Burnett, aged 21, at Craiginches Prison in Aberdeen for the murder of seaman Thomas Guyan, the last hanging in Scotland.
- 1964, 13 August: Peter Anthony Allen, at Walton Prison in Liverpool, and Gwynne Owen Evans, at Strangeways Prison in Manchester for the murder of John Alan West, the last people executed in Britain.