Leading Conservative Supports Death Penalty In UK

By Mike Wendling | July 7, 2008 | 8:14 PM EDT

London (CNSNews.com) - A leading British Conservative Party politician has reignited debate in Britain by backing the reinstatement of capital punishment in some murder cases.

Other lawmakers have distanced themselves from the call by David Davis, who argued that the death penalty should be available as a punishment for murderers who kill multiple victims.

Davis, who was recently appointed the party's home affairs spokesperson, would likely be the leading contender for the post of Home Secretary if the Conservatives win the country's next general election. In that cabinet position, he would be in charge of justice legislation, including sentencing laws.

The death penalty was outlawed in Britain in 1965, though opinion polls have shown a consistent majority of the public in favor of it.

"The reason why people are against the death penalty very often is because of the risk of getting it wrong," Davis told the Sunday Telegraph newspaper. "With serial murders, that is unlikely to happen."

"I would bring back capital punishment for serial murderers. It is not a crime of passion, it is clearly pre-meditated and cold-blooded," he said.

According to the newspaper, Davis would be the first Home Secretary to be in favor of capital punishment since David Waddington, who held the job under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1990.

But Michael Howard, another former Home Secretary and the Conservative Party's current leader, has voted against the reinstatement of capital punishment, and officials said Davis' views were unlikely to become the part of the party platform.

This week, several leading Conservatives, including former Prime Minister John Major, came out against capital punishment.

Ann Widdecombe, a former Home Office official, said she supported the death penalty but believed that there was no way it would ever come back into British law.

"He said very clearly it's not coming back, it's not party policy. But he has truthfully given his own view, and I really don't see what all the fuss is about," she said.

"There is undeniably a difference between what Parliament wants and what the country wants. And that has been the case for a long time," she said.

In addition to a large contingent of lawmakers against reinstating capital punishment, any such effort might run afoul of European law.

None of Britain's major political parties supports the death penalty. Labour MP and current Home Secretary David Blunkett criticized the interview as an "eye-catching" ploy and called on Davis to support an upcoming criminal justice bill that will allow judges to impose sentences of life without parole.

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Mark Oaten called Davis' comments "obscene"

"Michael Howard must immediately disown any prospect of bringing back the death penalty," Oaten said. "If the death penalty had been in place for the last 30 years, dozens of people who were later proved innocent would have been killed."

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