Wednesday 23 January 2019

Why we must bring back the death penalty

John O'Keeffe

MR Justice Johnson's suggestion that the death penalty should be revisited has come at an apposite time. Murder sadly now gets the type of media attention that 20 years ago was afforded to mere assault. The taking of life has little meaning in a country on bended knee to the ill-informed chattering classes.

Until murder visits our own door it remains a very foreign foe and the bleeding hearts that stalk our land will now need to be cauterised at the idea that a former High Court president has suggested that a civilised society might at least consider taking one life for another.

In truly civilised countries, murder means murder.

Societal evolution has taught these communities that victims and their families are central to the process and for these people the intent of the offender and end result remain the same.

Furthermore, if we are to begin to discuss the reintroduction of the death penalty we need to immediately remove Irish society's bizarre historical regard for a victim's societal status.

A Roma, Traveller's or settled person's life is just as valuable as a member of An Garda Siochana or prison officer. Trust me on that one.

This national conversation is in need of a very serious kick- start. For every piece of research that shows that the death penalty as a deterrent does not work, there are another 10 that says it does.

As comparatively recently as the 1970s, detailed research showed that for every murder executed, seven lives were spared as others were deterred from committing crime.

You want to know why some states in the US which execute have higher crime rates than those that don't? You may wish to investigate how long it takes for a murderer to go to the chair. After all, in the land of the criminogenic murderer, prevarication remains king.

And let us get deterrence into perspective.

One thing of which we can be certain is that the murderer who receives a lethal injection is now deterred for good. It's called permanent incapacitation and it always works.

With modern investigative techniques and DNA-testing, the likelihood of an innocent person been sent to die is hugely diminshed.

Note also that many prisoners on death row in the US have been released merely because of a legal technicality, not because they did not commit the crime, yet this very release plays into the hands of the rehabilitation aficionadoes.

Furthermore, for many, 30 years in a super-max prison in the US is far worse than execution, and many would say that the mere act of breathing for three decades is a superior alternative to a lethal injection.

Since Irish society regards murder as its most heinous of crimes, it must now therefore use the strongest of possible deterrents, the death penalty, to meet this challenge. This is not, however, revenge for revenge's sake, rather a mere recalibration of justice -- something we in Ireland seem to have lost sight of.

In recent times we have witnessed the most horrendous of killings for which no justice is either done or has seen to be done.

Joe O'Reilly swims further into his personality disordered mind on the back of incessant publicity. He bludgeoned his wife's face to a pulp yet he will, relatively soon, be able to enjoy the fruits of his notoriety while her family visit her grave every day.

Elderly men and women are murdered in their homes and still we peddle the myth that their lives were somehow so meaningless that the savages who took their existences from them are worth our tears.

Mr Justice Richard Johnson has now struck a chord with middle Ireland, who have had enough. In the post-modern mire in which Ireland Inc finds itself, all crime is explicable and all criminals redeemable.

The most redeemable of all are those who commit the most heinous of offences, namely murder. We then provide them in prison with all the comforts that they desire -- many more then they had on the outside.

We offer them ludicrous remission for not breaking the arm of a prison warden, or slashing the face of a fellow inmate and we hand down meaningless 'life' sentences for murder where the majority are out of prison still in good time to see their children grow up -- a courtesy that was not afforded their victims.

Mr Justice Richard's Johnson' wise suggestion needs now to be considered -- very carefully.

John O'Keeffe is Dean of Law, Dublin Business School, and a criminologist

Irish Independent

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