Tory MP asks government to consider bringing back death penalty

Former minister John Hayes urges justice secretary to consider ‘potential merits’ of hanging violent criminals

Benjamin Kentish
Political Correspondent
Saturday 03 November 2018 10:16 GMT
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John Hayes said it would have been ‘appropriate’ to hang Westminster Bridge attacker Khalid Masood
John Hayes said it would have been ‘appropriate’ to hang Westminster Bridge attacker Khalid Masood

A Conservative MP has called on the government to reintroduce hanging for people who commit violent crimes.

John Hayes, MP for South Holland and the Deepings, and a former minister, asked justice secretary David Gauke to consider the “potential merits” of the death penalty.

The option of capital punishment “should be available to the courts” in cases such as that of Westminster Bridge attacker Khalid Masood, he said.

Masood was shot dead by armed officers after mowing down pedestrians and fatally stabbing PC Keith Palmer in March 2017, but Mr Hayes suggested that had Masood survived it would have been “appropriate” for him to be hanged.

In a written parliamentary question, the MP, who served as a minister in various departments between 2010 and 2018, asked the justice secretary to “make an assessment of the potential merits of bringing forward legislative proposals to reintroduce the death penalty to tackle violent crime”.

Responding, justice minister Edward Argar said the government “opposes the use of the death penalty in all circumstances and has no plans to reintroduce it”.

Pointing out that the UK is campaigning for the abolition of the death penalty globally, he said: “There is no evidence that capital punishment acts as a deterrent to violent crime. Furthermore, the reintroduction of the death penalty would bring with it the very real risk that some innocent people would die.”

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But Mr Hayes told Lincolnshire Live: “We have got an issue in Britain with very serious crime.

“We have had a number of serious crimes, the murder rates increase and barely a week goes by without hearing about some horrific child murder or old people being attacked and killed.

“Many of my constituents say that’s partly because we don’t respond appropriately.

“It seems to me there really needs to be a fitting punishment.”

He added: “I say capital punishment should be a sentence available to the courts but the death penalty should not be mandatory – that’s always been my position.

“If you look at the Westminster Bridge attacker, he was shot in cold blood after someone had taken a proper decision to stop him.

“If he had survived, I think most of the British public would have been OK if he had received a fair trial and been hanged – most people would deem that appropriate.”

Mr Hayes also suggested that serial killers Fred West and Harold Shipman could have received the death penalty, saying both had killed themselves “almost as if they knew that was the right thing for them to do”.

Capital punishment ended in the UK in 1965. The last people to be hanged were Peter Allen and Gwynne Evans, who were executed for the murder of John West in Seaton, Cumberland.

The option of the death penalty remained in UK law until 1998 when it was completely abolished.

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