Indonesian case again raises issue of death penalty
The issue of capital punishment has come to the fore with respect to the female British citizen facing the death penalty in Indonesia for drug trafficking.
It serves to emphasise what that country feels about those who attempt to profit, in the main, from destroying the life of others, firmly placing the crime on a par with murder.
Further, as representatives of the country maintain, such drastic measures protect, among other priorities, its tourist trade.
Most certainly, any debate on the issue involves many shades of grey, more particularly since it's a form of punishment that has been consigned to history in a number of countries, including our own.
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Should the issue today, however, be put to the country by way of a referendum, it could well be that the majority would be in favour of its reintroduction.
Swaying opinion is the fact that violent crime involving homicide has become more commonplace, certainly since when I was a youth in the 1950s.
Punishments generally tend to be based on three theories; deterrent, retributive and reformative.
Most forms of punishment involve all three, though self-evidently capital punishment cannot involve any reformative measures for the individual involved, though it can act to both deter and perhaps even serve to reform, in a loose sense, others.
Capital punishment appears to be based largely on the principle of utilitarianism: the greatest happiness for the greatest number.
The argument would seem to run along the lines that if, for instance, "it could be proved conclusively" someone had committed a gratuitous act of murder, then that person should forfeit their life.
In such a case a reformative measure is not considered sufficiently beneficial to "society as a whole".
A somewhat looser analogy could be applied to the issue of corporal punishment in schools.
It had in common the fact that it was a dreaded deterrent; so feared that the mere threat was often sufficient in practice and, therefore, was used somewhat sparingly.
The thought of "six of the best", though I must confess to never having heard personally of anyone that was on the receiving end of quite such severe measures, was sufficient to dissuade all and sundry.
In conclusion, though Jeremy Bentham's (British philosopher, jurist and social reformer) theory of utilitarianism has sometimes been criticised for not always satisfying the principle of justice, it should not be confused with the idea the end justifies the means.
Further, I wonder just what form of punishment would be advocated by those whose loved ones have been gunned down in "cold blood", like for instance when robbers have entered a sub-post office with sawn-off shotguns, intent on letting nothing stand in their way?
David Abbott, Stoke Golding.