The UK Government’s new e-petitions website has attracted some attention by sparking the debate about capital punishment.
There are petitions supporting the current ban on executions while others call for hanging to be brought back.
The Church of Scotland opposes capital punishment for three main reasons:
Firstly, revenge or retribution is not a moral position for an enlightened and civilised society.
Secondly, the chance of a miscarriage of justice may mean that an innocent person is killed. Would you like to be hanged by mistake?
Thirdly, it is for the supporters of the death penalty to prove beyond doubt that bringing back hanging will deter crime. They have to show why the status quo is not working. There is no statistical evidence to suggest that having the death penalty deters terrorists or murderers.
The Church reported on the death penalty in 2008. The report concluded:
“No system of justice devised and operated by humans is free from error or arbitrariness. The death penalty conflicts with the right to life enshrined in the European Convention in Human Rights, and the possibility of the death penalty has manifestly failed to deter murder, war crimes and genocide. The death penalty brutalises the society which practices it, and alternative sentences for serious crimes exist through which restitution and rehabilitation may be achieved. Inflicting death as a punishment limits the redemptive work of God in this life, work modelled by Jesus in his life of God’s compassion and mercy, and in his teaching of non-violence.
“Therefore the Church of Scotland affirms that capital punishment is always and wholly unacceptable and does not provide an answer even to the most heinous of crimes; and commits itself to work with other churches and agencies to advance this understanding, oppose death sentences and executions and promote the cause of abolition of the death penalty worldwide.”