‘A few innocent lives taken is nothing compared to winning little England’, Labour leader expected to say at any moment
Keir Starmer is set to announce support for the return of hanging, half a century after it was abolished in the UK, as part of his attempt to win a few more votes in die-hard Tory areas. A European ban on reintroducing death sentences is believed to be behind Starmer’s pronouncement this week that there is no room for the UK to rejoin the EU.
No, not really. At least, not yet. But it might as well be on the cards after Starmer’s deputy, Angela Rayner, told right-wing media that anti-terror police should ‘shoot terrorists first and ask questions later’. That went down well with the rabid press, of course, particularly as ‘terrorists’ in their eyes carries a strong implication of ‘black, brown, Muslim or Irish’.
Rayner’s staggering idiocy or lack of political and moral backbone ignores (or more likely disregards) the fact that people have been killed by the police on just such a principle who turned out to have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism, notably the Brazilian Jean-Charles de Menezes – who was executed by a squad under the command of now-ex Met chief Cressida Dick at a London underground station. But it’s far from limited to one incident, just ask Irish people about the ‘shoot to kill’ policy in Northern Ireland. It also ignores the fact that even if a suspect really is a terrorist, live ones provide a lot more intel than dead ones.
And if you can ignore those factors in favour of ‘shoot them all and let God sort them out’, then it’s only a small step to deciding that a few innocents executed for crimes they didn’t commit is a price worth paying for appealing to the biases and bigotries of small-minded reflex Tory voters and getting a few positive headlines from the most racist parts of the right-wing media.
Such a stance, like Rayner’s nonsense today, is entirely in keeping with the recent declarations of Starmer and his drones – pronouncements that grossly and libellously smeared Starmer’s predecessor – that they are going to be tough on criminals, with an implied ‘and f*** the causes of crime or the consequences for innocents wrongly targeted in the crosshairs’. It’s also entirely in keeping with the entrenched and never-punished racism of the Labour right.
After all, there are racists, bigots, xenophobes and Pavlov’s Tories to appeal to instead of the 33 million people in this country to disillusioned to vote when all the main parties offer the same dish on a different-coloured plate.
Here are a few names of people hanged and now known or believed to have been entirely innocent of the crimes for which they were executed:
- Timothy Evans was tried and executed in March 1950 for the murder of his wife and infant daughter. An official inquiry conducted 16 years later determined that it was Evans’ fellow tenant, serial killer John Reginald Halliday Christie, who was responsible for the murders. Christie also admitted to the murder of Evans’ wife, following conviction for murdering five other women and his own wife. Evans was posthumously pardoned in 1966 after the inquiry concluded that Christie had also murdered Evans’ daughter. The case was a major factor leading to the abolition of capital punishment in the United Kingdom
- George Kelly was executed in March 1950 for the 1949 murder of the manager of the Cameo Cinema in Liverpool and his assistant during a robbery that went wrong. This case became known as the Cameo Murder. Kelly’s conviction was overturned in 2003. Another man, Donald Johnson, had confessed to the crime but the police bungled Johnson’s case and had not divulged his confession at Kelly’s trial
- Somali-born Mahmood Hussein Mattan was executed in 1952 for the murder of Lily Volpert. In 1998 the Court of Appeal decided that the original case was, in the words of Lord Justice Rose, “demonstrably flawed”. The family were awarded £725,000 compensation, to be shared equally among Mattan’s wife and three children. The compensation was the first award to a family for a person wrongfully hanged
- Derek Bentley was a learning disabled young man who was executed in 1953. He was convicted of the murder of a police officer during an attempted robbery, despite the facts that it was his accomplice who fired the gun and that Bentley was already under arrest at the time of the shooting. Christopher Craig, the 16-year-old who actually fired the fatal shot, could not be executed as he was under 18
Angela Rayner was contacted for comment but did not respond.
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