The Abolition Of The Death Penalty Essay

The Abolition Of The Death Penalty Essay

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Derek Bentley’s case evidently highlighted the unjust nature of some punishments within Britain, in this case hangings and it could be argued that this case was one of the main reasons for the abolition of the death penalty. On the other hand, there were other individuals and acts that led to a change in attitudes such as the Criminal Justice Act of 1948 that led to the abolition of whippings among many other things. It cannot be stated that Bentley was the sole reason for changing attitudes, but his case was undoubtedly a ‘key turning point in changing attitudes to crime and punishment’.

Derek Bentley a 19-year-old child was hanged for a murder that he did not commit and the case elicited a social and political uproar that marks this change in attitudes to the criminal justice system for, perceived to be, murderers. T.P. Uschanov commented on the initial societal views affirming that the “sentiment of the public was clearly on his side, and petitions for mercy were signed by huge numbers of people, including 200 MPs from all parties.” This leads to the idea that the public and their attitudes were changing because they understood the sometimes unjust nature of the penal system and that if a grave miscarriage of justice did occur and a man was wrongfully hanged, then there is no way to go back on their decision, thus representing the case of Derek Bentley did lead to a change in attitudes in society. Furthermore, the quote evokes the message that parliament saw the injustice in the case and had decided to petition against the hanging of Bentley, but to no avail. Although their pleas did go unnoticed, it still represented how the government were starting to recognise that hangings, especially in convoluted cases like Bentley’s, s...


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...tely how to prevent it. Hostletter further wrote that “Recidivism was a ‘growing stain in our society’” presenting that repeat offenders had been a problem and Gladstone had recognized this and called for an approach that would hopefully lead to less recidivism within the penal system. It can be argued that this did lead to a major change in attitudes because, according to Edwards and Hurley , the Prison Act of 1898 arguably came about through the Gladstone report adhering to the claim that it did lead to a change in attitudes throughout the time period; “Dealt mainly with changes in the nature of prison labour… for the phasing out of the crank and tread wheel and for the use of oakum picking only as a last resort”; as one can see, it focusses on the same fundamental nature of punishment, and only using certain types of punishment for the most disagreeable of crimes.

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