Why Derek Bentley’s execution was important in changing attitudes to Capital Punishment?
For serious crimes, such as murder, the government has introduced a punishment which is known as the Capital punishment. It’s a death penalty for the person who committed a crime. The government believed that the harshness in the punishment would deter crimes and also bring justice to the victim’s family. However, during the 20th centuary, there were concerns questioning the necessity of the death penalty.One of the controversial execution is of Derek Bentley, who was accused of murder and was executed as a result. On Sunday the 2nd November 1952, Bentley, aged 19, and Christopher Craig, aged 16 broke into a London Warehouse, intending to commite the crime of burglary.
The arrival of the police at the scene sbotaged their intention and their plan to escape through the roof.In panic Criag shot one of the police, PC Sidney and killed him consequently. Eventhough both Craig and Bentley were charged with murder, it was only Bentley who was executed as Craig was under 18 and a law which was passed in 1933 stating that people under 18 could no longter be hanged restrained the execution of Craig. But the public’s concern was: was the exceution of Bentely fair at all? Since Bentley was known to have learning difficulties and had the mental age of 11, the local people though the execution was utterly unfair.
In addition, Bentley didn’t own any weapon nor he pulled the trigger and shot the officer. This strongly suggests the injustice that’s in his execution and the poepl’s denail against it. This particular exceution changed many people’s attitudes toward Capital punishment overwhelmingly. People had gathered outside Wandsworth jail, where they showed great sympathy by singing and praying for him and also were protesting against the decision of the execution.
Also, a petion of 200 members asking for the mercy of Bentley was passed around, to which the government showed no remorse to. Many pointed out that the mental age of Bentley is younger than Craig’s and this led to these protests against the useage of Capital punishment. To conclude, Bentley’s execution was one of the principal elements that has been the cause to abolish the Capital punishment and changed many people’s views as it was inquitable to sentence someone with mental disabilities and who had not even committed murder to death.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 16 October 2016
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