Page 6, 20th March 1964

20th March 1964
Page 6
Page 6, 20th March 1964 — The case against capital punishment

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Organisations: Royal Commission


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The case against capital punishment

-111E HOMICIDE Act by Christopher Ilollis with a foreword by Lord Gardiner (Victor Gollancz, 18s.).

Reviewed by LORD LONGFORD HRISTOPHER HOLLIS is as persuasive an apologist in

a small compass as any man *$ living. This book is short. But in its 112 pages it finishes off its subject and finishes off, One would hope, the Homicide Act 1957.

Lord Gardiner is ideally suited to write the introduction. He and Mr. Hollis share the same deadly calm, the same refusal to get rude or angry, the same lightly-borne erudition. the same passionate detestation of social evil; in this case capital punishment.

Between them they have driven many a nail into its coffin. This one might nearly be the last.

Mr. Hollis does npt set out here to state the general case against capital punishment. As he says, the arguments on each side of the debate are few and familiar. But he takes us quickly, though carefully, through the sequence of events that lead to the setting up of the Royal Commission, which reported in 1953.

He rightly treats as crucial its finding that there is no evidence that capital punishment acts as a unique deterrent.

Mr. Hollis's main task is to study the attempts made in various countries, and here, since the Homicide Act, 1957. to "grade" murders into those in which the death penalty should, and those in which it should not he awarded. He shows that all such attempts have broken down here and elsewhere.

His conclusion is inevitable: "Therefore there can be no question that the solution of all the conundra about responsibility add diminished responsibility. about murders of the first degree and murders of the second degree, is to cut boldly through them by following the greater part of the civilised world into total abolition."

1 suppose that one ought to remember that there are still a number of high-minded, and welleducated people in this country who still demand that the threat of hanging in certain circumstances should be retained. Can the case really be as simple as Mr. Hollis makes it?

Starting admittedly with much bias in favour of the case and arguments. I cannot find a flaw. But those who still hesitate should read the book, as should those who wish to convert them.

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