In 1965 the Labour MP Sydney Silverman, who had committed himself to the cause of abolition for more than 20 years, introduced a private member's bill to suspend the death penalty, which was passed on a free vote in the House of Commons by 200 votes to 98. The bill was subsequently passed by the House of Lords by 204 votes to 104.
The Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act 1965 suspended the death penalty in England, Wales and Scotland (but not in Northern Ireland) for murder for a period of five years, and substituted a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment; it further provided that if, before the expiry of the five-year suspension, each House of Parliament passed a resolution to make the effect of the Act permanent, then it would become permanent. In 1969 the Home Secretary, James Callaghan, proposed a motion to make the Act permanent, which was carried in the Commons on 16 December 1969, and a similar motion was carried in the Lords on 18 December. The death penalty for murder was abolished in Northern Ireland on 25 July 1973 under the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1973.
Following the abolition of the death penalty for murder, the House of Commons held a vote during each subsequent parliament until 1997 to restore the death penalty. This motion was always defeated, but the death penalty still remained for other crimes:
- causing a fire or explosion in a naval dockyard, ship, magazine or warehouse (until 1971);
- espionage (until 1981);
- piracy with violence (until 1998);
- treason (until 1998); and
- certain purely military offences under the jurisdiction of the armed forces, such as mutiny (until 1998). Prior to its complete abolition in 1998, it was available for six offences:
- serious misconduct in action;
- assisting the enemy;
- obstructing operations;
- giving false air signals;
- mutiny or incitement to mutiny; and
- failure to suppress a mutiny with intent to assist the enemy.
However no executions were carried out in the United Kingdom for any of these offences, after the abolition of the death penalty for murder.
Nevertheless, there remained a working gallows at HMP Wandsworth, London, until 1994, which was tested every six months until 1992. This gallows is now housed in the Galleries of Justice in Nottingham.
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Famous quotes containing the word murder:
“Chinese do not repay friendship with death.”
—Joseph ODonnell, and Clifford Sanforth. Ah Ling, Murder by Television, when he is accused of Perrys murder (1935)
“As I sat before the fire on my fir-twig seat, without walls above or around me, I remembered how far on every hand that wilderness stretched, before you came to cleared or cultivated fields, and wondered if any bear or moose was watching the light of my fire; for Nature looked sternly upon me on account of the murder of the moose.”
—Henry David Thoreau (18171862)