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

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

UK: Ian Brady escaped hanging – and defined attitudes to the death penalty

Ian Brady
Ian Brady in custody
Apart from their sheer horror, the Moors murders stayed in the public imagination because they marked the end of capital punishment

Ian Brady retained his dark grip on the British imagination right to the very end. The 1965 police photograph of the Moors murderer stared out from the front pages once more this week to mark his death at 79, just as they have done so often ever since Brady was convicted of three murders in May 1966. Few criminals of any era are front-page news for half a century; Brady and his accomplice, Myra Hindley, were unquestionably two of them.

The most obvious reason for this 50-year notoriety is, of course, the sheer horror of the crimes that Brady planned and committed. The details of his tortures and acts are unbearable. The transcript of victims’ pleas, never mind the tapes that were heard in court, are as shocking as anything one could ever encounter.

But the revolting nature of the crimes, important though it is, is not the only explanation for the long shadow that Brady cast over Britain into the 21st century. Though the serial murder of children for pleasure, and the involvement of a woman as co-killer, marked the Moors murders out in the annals of British crime, they also came at a potently significant time in the evolution of British penal policy: the abolition of the death penalty.

Brady and Hindley carried out their killings between 1963 and 1965. Brady was arrested on 7 October 1965.

However in December 1964, with Harold Wilson’s Labour in a small parliamentary majority, the House of Commons voted by 355 to 170 in favour of the backbencher Sydney Silverman’s bill to abolish hanging in Britain. 

By the time that Brady was arrested, Silverman’s bill had almost completed its parliamentary journey. 

A month after the arrest, the bill became law. Hanging was abolished on 9 November 1965.

➤ Click here to read the full article

Source: The Guardian, Opinion, Martin Kettle, May 16, 2017

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