Another guest post, this one from Alex MacDonald who is a social entrepreneur, political activist and university student.  He loves following current affairs and in particular, to read and write about the controversial issues of the day.  Susceptible to having his opinion swayed, and therefore would welcome your thoughts and views – brave man! allows members of the public to create and sign petitions of their choice. The website is a fantastic opportunity to raise awareness of important and sometimes tender issues that the public want addressed in parliament and when it went live on 4th August, it crashed later that day due to overwhelming demand. Petitions need over 100,000 signatures to be passed into the House of Commons for debate and for parliamentary procedures to begin.  So far, the site’s first and second most popular petitions relate to Britain’s stance on the death penalty, with one calling for the restoration of capital punishment:

“We petition the government to review all treaties and international commitments which may inhibit the ability of Parliament to restore capital punishment. Following this review, the Ministry of Justice should map out the necessary legislative steps which will be required to restore the death penalty for the murder of children and police officers when killed in the line of duty. The findings of the review and the necessary substantive legislation to be presented to House of Commons for debate no later than 12 months after this petition passes the acceptance threshold.” 

According to this petition, should an offender murder a child then the offender would be sentenced to death but should an offender commit serial murder on people over the age of 21, the offender would receive a life sentence.  This policy does not address murder as an entity but as two separate entities, murder that is not acceptable and murder that is more acceptable. It also promotes the understanding of hate crimes across the United Kingdom as it is a policy that protects a collective body of people. When in reality murder should be addressed as murder and not divided between social groups, gender and other variables.

The murder of a child is a devastating incident that  affects the whole country. However, another problem with this category is that it may be difficult to classify an individual as a ‘child’. Who exactly is a child, and by definition when is a child no longer a child? Parents  are able to claim child benefit until their children reach the age of 20, yet it may be hard to justify describing a 20 year old  as a ‘child’. As individuals, we can marry at 16, and we can drink, smoke and vote at 18. However, these milestones show how difficult it is to define the point when an individual is considered mature enough to take responsibility for their own decisions, which is an integral part of adulthood. So how can an arbitrary reference to age adopted in legislation be justified?

According to this petition, the intentional killing of a child is one of the more serious forms of murder. It could be argued that children are defenceless and particularly vulnerable victims. This acts as an aggravating factor, which makes the offence more serious. So from a legal perspective it can be argued that a separate sentencing may be appropriate for child murder.

This leaves many questions left unanswered as children are not the only defenceless and vulnerable group in society. Other vulnerable groups such as the elderly and the disabled should therefore be considered to be included in this petition. Yet further questions surround this issue, how old would one have to be to be considered elderly, and how disabled would one have to be to be considered handicapped? This new law on many occasions would fall into a grey area. Age is not a defining factor for the elderly, as people grow and die at different ages. Nor does disability necessarily inhibit a person’s understanding of certain situations and scenarios to make them more of a vulnerable victim.

Emotionally I feel that child murder is worse than any other murder, to lose a life that young is a devastating tragedy. However, logically it should not be the case that the law is based around emotional perspectives. If the law is written around emotional perspectives then that will counter balance a fair system.

The new law would promote one life over another and set up divisions between groups of people. One niche group would be protected by the death penalty where as other groups would not be. The law would be found asking itself which group is more important to society. If a crime is illegal then why is there the need of mixed sentencing? Murder is murder, regardless of the age, race, sexuality and etc of its victims. With this petition we question who is vulnerable and who is not. Minority groups and the homosexuals and lesbians are all examples of vulnerable people, so should the law protect them differently? Or as I previously mentioned, does this just needlessly group people?

The murder of police officers acting in the course of duty often provokes a public outcry. The police do a vital job in keeping Britain safe, and so when the death of a police officer hits the headlines, it is always difficult and upsetting to see.

However the idea of a law that solely protects the police promotes inequality amongst the British public, which further adds to bias crime acknowledgement. According to this policy the murder of an on duty policeman is worse than the murder of any other professional in any other job. What about when that policeman goes off duty? Is it still bias motivated crime? Or is it then a personal attack?

What about the murder of on duty doctors, firemen and the Prime Minister? Further to this, what about receptionists, jockeys and bankers? Surely all people should be protected equally by the law?

Such a distinction can be justified; children are vulnerable and need to be protected, and the police risk their lives on a daily basis to keep the public safe.  However, in conclusion , this petition fails to protect other vulnerable groups such as the disabled and the elderly.  The law should not draw an arbitrary distinction between different groups.

I am against capital punishment. If the state sentences a murderer to death, then the state is stepping on common ground with that murderer, regardless of the atrocities of the crime.

However, from a hypothetical perspective, if capital punishment is to be introduced back into the UK, then the law should protect all groups of people, regardless of age, career and other variables, as the law should be set to protect everyone in society.

But what do you think?