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Does norway have the death penalty ?

Dear Reader, I asked the question which is the title of the post early today when I saw the news.

The answer is that Norway does not have a death penalty.

Right now society needs to consider what it should do with the worst members of society, it is not an easy question to consider. I know people like lists, one list of the worst people in British society was created by university academics recently. One of these bad britons was clearly a criminal (Jack the Ripper).

If we had caught Jack the Ripper, assuming that the court find him guilty then we would need to consider what to do with him. One school of thought is that the right thing to do is to hang / shoot / gas / electrocute / poison / dismember the vile felon as a way of ridding society of the criminal. One core idea is that the death sentence will deter others from crime and prevent reoffending.

While the idea that capital punishment does prevent a person reoffending is true, if you ignore any crimes which the prisoner might commit while awaiting their execution.

The deterrent effect of capital punishment might not exist, Albert Pierrepoint in his autobiography suggested that hanging was not an effective deterrent against murder. Also in the UK many years ago we had something known as the “bloody code” which had public hanging as the sentence for a wide range of crimes. Typically the hanging would occur in front of a large crowd. If hanging people in public deterred people from crime then surely only one of two people would need to be hanged per year for stealing, robbery and murder. But in those times vast numbers of people were sent to the gallows each year for the same types of crimes. This suggests to me that at least in that society that capital punishment did not have a strong deterrent effect against crime.

The other school of thought is that society needs to be better than the vile offender, one of the most important rules in society is “thou shall not kill“. It has been argued that by killing the criminal that the state reaches down to the level of the common murderer.

Capital punishment also brings the problem that while most criminal sanctions can be reversed, the execution can not be reversed. So it is possible for an error or miscarriage of justice to occur which the state is powerless to correct later.

Also with capital punishment a quick and easy exit from this world is given to some of the worst criminals, if we wish to take a punitive approach with the likes of Timothy McVeigh, Ian Brady and Myra Hindley then by hanging them we prevent them suffering a long series of thing which include having to know that they will spend the rest of their pathetic lives inside a prison.

Also execution will stymie any attempt to rehabilitate the criminal. As a result of these four problems it should be clear that capital punishment is not a perfect one size fits all solution to all criminal ills.

I will be thinking  about this typic some more, I will try to write on the train tonight a further post on the topic. The title is “What should we do with serious criminals such as mass killers ?”


10 Responses

  1. Well, IF they don’t have a death penalty, perhaps they should get one now?

    • I have mixed feelings about the use of the death penalty, I will reply to your comment in a new post

  2. almack

    they put Rabid DOGS to SLEEP.

    because they are DANGEROUS ? ?

    • True, rabid animals are put to sleep to protect society.

      While a rabid dog might be able to bite you and then make you go rabid, I suspect that if some criminal such as the gun-thug from Norway was to bite my hand then while it might hurt a lot and be unhygenic, I do not think that I would be able to catch a disease which would make me commit a violent crime.

      So I think it is a bad comparison, but one of the stated purposes of the UK prison service is to protect society from dangerous persons. I suspect that in Norway that their prison service will be used to protect society by keeping the person(s) resposnible for the bomb and gun attack locked away from normal law abiding people.

  3. Mark,

    I agree with all of your logic. I don’t think it is a deterrant. I agree that it may be an easy out as well. But in a case this bad, I think it will be good for the country and world to have this man executed. I am sure Saddam Hussein had a quick out but I bet it made a couple thousand Kurds feel better about their loss and the rest of the world as well. Even if a person disagrees with capital punishment in general, my gosh, there have to be some exceptions for the worst of this world. String him up!! Oh yeah and draw and quarter him as well.

    • I think that hanging Saddam was a big mistake.

      I think that the Iraqi government should have made arrangements with the Iranians for a trial under Iranian law. They should have agreed that Saddam should not be executed but the court would have been free to impose a sentence of life.

      I would have wanted Saddam to be put on trial for a specimen case murder of an Iranian man, an Iranian woman and an Iranian child. I would also want him charged with waging illegal war and for using poison gas. When the Iranians had finished with their trial.

      I would then invite the Kurds and the people of Kuwait to put him on trial under a similar deal.

      Finally at the end of all his trials, I would then invite the different nations whose courts had convicted him to provide either prison guards or members of their military to guard Saddam. Saddam would be held at a prison under a scheme similar to that of Hess. The idea would be that the different nations would share the responsibility of guarding him. I imagine that a multinational team of one NCO from each country, one officer from each and a team of soldiers from each could be assembled to do the guarding.

      I think that Saddam would find the idea of a series of criminal trials followed by spending the rest of his life guarded by a group of Kurds, Iranians, Kuwaitis and Iraqis to be a worse punishment than hanging.

  4. When one takes away so many innocent lives and the normal life of the victims families and friends do they really have the right to live? No.
    I believe that you give up your right to live when you take away the victims right to have a life and have normal families.
    I live in Texas and we have more executions than any other state in the US. I have also worked inside a prison. I would tell you that prisoners have more rights than anyone on the outside. They have free medical,dental,legal, and educational benefits. Thats better than the average person working hard to support their family with no insurance or benefits.
    There are simply some people beyond rehabilitation. Some prisons are like an adult daycare center with structured activities. Some like prison because its a free roof and bed and meals and laundry service and free benefits. Not really a punishment or hardship in some prisons.
    There are many diseases,natural disasters, and accidents that take the lives of so many people. Why spare a single life of one person who did not care about the lives he took and the suffering caused to so many families and friends.

    • In part I agree with you and in other parts I disagree with you.

      A person who makes the choice to do something which is deeply wrong, does through that act wave many rights. These rights include the right to choose to get up in the morning for a walk in the woods, the right to choose where to live and the right to wear whatever they like. (In prison all three of these rights are very seriously limited).

      I do not like the idea of a prison which is like Butlins (A famous british holiday camp), I think that a person in prison should not have better health/dental care than a typical manual labourer working in a factory or a farm.

      You are right that some persons are ‘unfixable’, some people will never be rehabilitated. But the problem with the death sentance is it is very expensive and when the legal system gets it wrong it is impossible to reverse.

      I suspect from your post you are a prison officer or some other type of prison worker, I hold the view that while prison should not be a fun place it should not become like Belsen (a infamous concentration camp liberated by the British).

      The prison officers should be in charge of the prison and not the inmates, I hold the view that violent inmates should be on a harsher part of the prison than the normal population. For those who violent within the prisons I see a place like ADX Florence as the end of the line rather than the death chamber.

  5. The safest time ever recorded in history was back in the days when it was literally an eye for an eye. As long as good people are running the country i am all for it. Cruel to be kind, as they say.

    • I think that the criminal justice system is more than just a revenge system, it attempts to prevent crime. Part of the prevention should the conversion of criminals into citizens who no longer offend.

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