"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Strong support for death penalty but support declines under different circumstances: Singapore study

SINGAPORE - Most Singaporeans are in favour of the death penalty, but the support wavered when faced with different scenarios, a new survey has found.

Fewer people back the mandatory death penalty, and this support is weaker for drug trafficking and firearms offences where no death or injury has happened.

The findings of the study come four years after Singapore removed the mandatory penalty for some crimes, and amid a recent global debate on abolishing the death penalty.

In Singapore, the death penalty remains mandatory if someone is convicted of certain crimes, such as firearms offences and drug offences where the person is a trafficker.

"It's important for us to continue to review the use of the death penalty because it's such a serious, harsh penalty, and one that is irreversible," said National University of Singapore (NUS) associate law professor Chan Wing Cheong at a media briefing on Thursday.

He and three other researchers - NUS sociologist Tan Ern Ser, Singapore Management University law don Jack Lee and human rights group Maruah's president Braema Mathi - helmed the survey of 1,500 Singapore citizens aged 18 to 74.

It was conducted between April and May this year (2016).

Seven in 10 people were in favour of the death penalty, a level of support similar to what an October survey of 1,160 people by government feedback arm Reach found.

But when researchers drilled down to the specifics of the sentencing, or the details of each case, this support declined, noted Prof Tan Ern Ser.

For instance, 92 per cent said they are in favour of the death penalty for intentional murder, 86 per cent for drug trafficking, and 88 per cent for discharging a firearm.

But when people were asked if they favoured the mandatory death penalty for the same offences, the level of support was lower: 47 per cent for intentional murder, 32 per cent for drug trafficking, and 36 per cent for firearms offences.

Most supported the mandatory death penalty as they believe that it acts as a deterrent. As for those who support the discretionary death penalty, most believe that circumstances differ and not every offender deserves to die.

Respondents were also asked to judge 12 specific scenario cases ranging from intentional murder to drug trafficking and firearms offences, with mitigating or aggravating factors such as like a prior criminal record or fatalities.

Researchers found that when faced with the reality of these scenarios, support for the mandatory death penalty dropped.

Older Singaporeans and those who are more highly-educated are more likely to support the death penalty in general.

The support also varied across religions, with Chinese Taoists and Buddhists twice as likely to support the death penalty as Protestant Christians, and Protestant Christians twice as likely to support the death penalty as Catholics.

Source: straitstimes.com, December 7, 2016

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