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Report No. 35

Topic Number 58(d)-

Execution in public, and publicity to be given to execution

1152. Execution in public, and publicity to be given to execution.-

We have considered the question whether executions should be held in public1. This was the practice in England until it was altered in 1868. There were several unsatisfactory features associated with execution in public, which led to its abolition in England2.

Disorderly behaviour of the public, attempts to interfere with the execution, and unhealthy expression of a feeling of rejoicing, were the principal evils which were associated with this practice. Instead of enhancing the deterrent influence of the death penalty-which was their main supposed justification3-they became the parent, and not the destroyer, of crime.

1. Replies suggesting public executions are summarised in para. 1145, supra.

2. For a description of the various unsatisfactory features, see Radzinowicz History of England Criminal Law, (1948), Vol. 1, pp. 171 to 178, 201 to 202, 211 to 212, 411, 465 and 466.

3. Report of the Select Committee on Capital Punishment, p. 15, para. 1, cited in Radzinowicz History of English Criminal Law, (1948), Vol. 1, p. 165.

1153. We think that an execution in public would be repulsive, and that is a sufficient argument against its introduction in this country. Nor do we recommend: the giving of any publicity before or after the event to an execution. There are certain provisions on the subject in England1 regarding the affixation of notices, etc. on the prison gate of impending execution, and of execution having taken place. The Royal Commission2 considered these provisions, and recommended that while public notification before execution should continue, the pasting of notices on the prison gate was unnecessary and should be replaced by the issue of Press notice, before and after execution of the date fixed for execution and of the execution having taken place respectively.

The announcement of execution dates in England is now governed by the Homicide Act3.

In a reply to a question, the Home Secretary stated4 that every execution date fixed since the Homicide Act received the Royal assent had been announced by means of a Press notice issued by the Home Office, and the pasting of notices outside the prisons had been discontinued.

We do not, however, consider any such provisions to be necessary in India.

1. Sections 4, 6 and 10, Capital Punishment Amendment Act, 1868 (31 & 32 Vict., C. 24).

2. R.C. Report, pp. 272 and 273, paras. 786-789.

3. Section 11, Homicide Act, 1957.

4. House of Commons, Debates, April 8, 1957.

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