• IndiaLily

The death penalty debate

The end of August saw Brenton Harrison Tarrant sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for the Christchurch mosque shootings in New Zealand.

On 15th March 2019, Tarrant entered two mosques during Friday prayer. He killed a total of 51 people, injuring another 40. In one case he deliberately killed a three-year-old child as he clung to the leg of his father in fear.

Described as a white supremacist, Tarrant live streamed the first shooting on Facebook and remained emotionless throughout court proceedings.


This was the first time that a life imprisonment without parole has been given in New Zealand. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described it as “one of New Zealand’s darkest days.”

My thought from this case is whether capital punishment should be brought back. In this situation there is no doubt that Tarrant carried out these attacks, so there is no question of his guilt.

It will cost New Zealand hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep him in prison all his life, and for me that doesn’t make any sense. Tax-payers are paying to keep a man like that in jail for what could be the next 60 years.

The main argument against capital punishment, and something that I completely agree with, is the risk that someone innocent ends up being killed. You only have to look back to the 2016 BBC series Rillington Place, which is a biographical crime drama about the real-life case of serial killer John Christie.

The series revolves around Christie’s home life, and the wrongful execution of Timothy Evans. Evans was executed for killing his wife, which was later revealed to have been Christie all along.

I am not arguing that the death penalty should come back in such force, but in cases where there is no doubt of the guilt of the accused, I believe that rather than paying for them to live in jail for god knows how long, they should be executed.

The justice system isn’t as simple as it used to be. It isn’t a case of an eye for an eye, or the punishment fitting the crime – there are now grey areas and complexities.

One basic human right is the right to life, but I feel that if you take this right from someone else (I stress - in certain circumstances, definitely not all cases) then you have lost that right.

Times have changed in techniques of execution too. No longer are people hung drawn and quartered in the town centre in front of a crowd, it is all much more humane now (generally speaking) and it isn’t a painful torture, but a quick ending.

It has been revealed that in HMP Frankland, the UK category A jail that keeps terrorists and murderers, it costs £63,000 to keep each prisoner behind bars every year – that’s £172-a-night!

HMP Frankland has been called ‘Monster Mansion’ for keeping the likes of Peter Sutcliffe and Ian Huntley.

I know this is a highly controversial subject, and I’m not saying anything will ever change, but for cases like the New Zealand shootings, where there is no doubt of guilt, I believe that execution would be the answer rather than spending ridiculous amounts of money to keep him in prison for the rest of his life.

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