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Report No. 35

II. Reasons for restoration in foreign countries

306. Reasons for restoration in foreign countries.-

In the various countries in which capital punishment has been restored, the reasons which led to restoration may be analysed as follows1:-

New Zealand.-The main reasons were2 (apart from political factors), the attitude of murderers towards the penalty, (during the abolition period, one murderer said "you do not get hanged for murder now-a-days"), the evidence given before the Select Committee by the police about the deterrent effect, increase in the number of sexual murders and murders associated with robbery, and newspaper reports about increase in the number of murders after abolition.

(In New Zealand, death penalty has now been abolished, except for treason3).

In New Zealand, capital punishment has had a chequered history. It is said that, to some extent, it has varied with the party in power. The following quotation from the speech of Mr. Hanan, Minister of Justice, on the Crimes Bill4 will show the position:-

"Capital punishment for murder has had a chequered history in New Zealand. It has been enforced and suspended and abolished, and re-instated and suspended again-a weather cock varying with every change of Government since 1935. The Bill makes an attempt to resolve the issue by prescribing the death penalty for certain types of murder-which are referred to as an aggravated murder-and life imprisonment for murder in the other categories.".

(The scheme of division of murders into categories, proposed in the Bill was not finally adopted, and capital punishment for murder abolished in New Zealand in 1961).

Washington (U.S.A.).-"The Legislature evidently regarded capital punishment as a deterrent force, for it was restored after a trial of six years of life imprisonment as the maximum penalty." The restoration was also the result of a series of murders; in one particular case, a murderer had boasted that the State could do nothing to him but board him for the rest of his life5.

Oregon (U.S.A.).-Restoration was initiated by the Governor by calling a special session of the Legislature, and in the address he said that a wave of crime had swept over the country since 1919, and because of a series of homicide offences, public sentiment demanded greater protection. After a plebiscite, capital punishment was restored6.

Tennessee (U.S.A.).-After the repeal of the Capital Punishment Act in 1915, there was a reign of crimes of the most heinous nature, which brought about a reversal of public sentiment7.

Missouri (U.S.A.).-In the period immediately following abolition, capital crimes occurred with frequency so that the public sentiment of the State demanded restoration of the death penalty8.

Kansas (U.S.A.).-Prior to restoration, numerous deliberate murders were committed in the State by persons who had previously committed murders in the surrounding States where death penalty was in force9.

South Dakota (U.S.A,).--Two Illinois convicts, having finished serving their terms, tramped across the State and killed a couple of filling station attendants, after committing robbery. This led to re-introduction of the death penalty10.

Switzerland.-Some particularly heinous murders took place shortly after abolition, leading to restoration in some Cantons11. Ultimately, it was abolished throughout all Cantons12.

1. The analysis has been made on a study of material given in the R.C. Report, pp. 372-375.

2. Cf. R.C. Report, p. 337, para. 16, and p. 343, para. 34.

3. See Crimes Act, 1961, (New Zealand), (Sections 74 and 172).

4. Parliamentary Debates, New Zealand, House of Representatives, (Vol. 328), dated 13th September, 1961, p. 2206.

5. R.C. Report, p. 374, para. 99.

6. R.C. Report, p. 374, para. 100.

7. R.C. Report, p. 374, para. 101.

8. R.C. Report, p. 374, para. 102.

9. R.C. Report, p. 375, para. 103.

10. R.C. Report, p. 375, para. 104.

11. R.C. Report, p. 375, para. 105.

12. R.C. Report, p. 360.

307. The following analysis of the developments in Switzerland might be interesting1-2.

1874.-Principle of abolition adopted in the Federal Constitution of 1874.

1876-1878.-Series of murders took place.

1879.-Referendum held, giving small majority for restoration. Restoration took place thereafter in certain Cantons, but the crime wave subsided. Between 1868 and 1892, there were no execution. Between 1892 and 1937, there were a few executions.

1928-1931.-Both Houses of the Federal Parliament secured majority in favour of abolition.

1937.-Death penalty abolished with effect from 1942 by the Swiss Penal Code of 1937, except in time of war, with the alternative of perpetual solitary confinement.

1952.-Owing to increase in crimes, question of restoration was discussed, but the proposal rejected in spite of increase in the number of murders since 1948.

1. Based on material in Joyce Right to Life, (1962), pp. 80 and 81.

2. See also R.C. Report, p. 360, para. 69.

308. Equador, which in 1878 was the first to dispense with capital punishment restored it in 1883 but again in 1895, it abolished it1.

1. Scott History of Capital Punishment, (1950), p. 75.



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