The last execution in the UK took place in August 1964. The following year, Parliament passed a law suspending the death penalty across Great Britain (this did not extend to Northern Ireland) for all crimes except high treason, “piracy with violence”, arson in royal dockyards, and espionage. It was only with the Human Rights Act coming into force in 1998 that the death penalty was banned under UK law in all circumstances.
The UK is a member state of the Council of Europe which drafted the European Convention on Human Rights in 1950. The Council of Europe has made abolition of the death penalty a prerequisite of membership. As a result, nobody has been executed in any of the Council of Europe’s member states since 1997.
We are, I think, happy that we, and the rest of Europe, have banned the death penalty: finally in the Human Rights Act in 1998. Now, it would appear, it is only human beings in the womb who are liable to the death penalty. Their crime? Being a nuisance to the interests of the owner of the womb. Pretty tough stuff, I think.
Of course many would say that the entity in the womb cannot, initially, be regarded as a human being. But the truth of the matter is that we all change and grow throughout our lifetimes through the development of our bodies and brains. Indeed, the very acting of writing these words is changing me — through changes in my brain. It’s still me! And it started 86 years and three months ago, at the moment of my conception. Was I conscious of myself at that time? I suspect not. But then I do not regard older humans who, for whatever reason, happen to be unconscious, that they are, at that point, not human beings, and so can be despatched at my will. And the child in the womb is my neighbour.
Yes, I am sympathetic towards women who are pregnant when they do not wish to be. But I do not believe that they are entitled to take their baby’s life as a price for their convenience. Why should babies be excecuted while murderers are not?