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Report No. 35

XIII. Result of U.N. Survey as to deterrent effect.

333. Result of U.N. Survey as to deterrent effect.-

A few years ago, the United Nations (Department of Economic and Social Affairs) conducted a survey as to capital punishment, and issued a specific questionnaire as to its deterrent effect. The result of the survey on this point was as follows1:-

"191. The purpose here was to gather, for purposes of comparison, positive indications regarding the death penalty. It is, however, very difficult to obtain data of that type which are complete and above all, objective. There are numerous gaps in this respect in the material, and many of the replies are silent on the question. There is also a great diversity from one country to another regarding the points on which exact data were supplied.

"192. Subject to these remarks, the first point to be noted is that the information assembled confirms the now generally held opinion that the abolition or (which is perhaps even more significant) the suspension of the death penalty does not have the immediate effect of appreciably increasing the incidence of crime. This point is stressed by the abolitionist countries where abolition de jure was preceded by a period of de facto suspension.

Likewise, some countries which have maintained the death penalty have experienced periods during which it was not applied, or at least not carried out, and in these the fact that there were no executions was well known to the general public and therefore to possible offenders. This was the case in France early in the twentieth century under President Fallieres and in the United Kingdom in the period preceding the Homicide Act, 1957. No noticeable increase in crime resulted in either case.

"193. The replies received from many abolitionist countries, in particular the Scandinavian countries, Austria and certain Latin American countries, take this consideration as the basis for the view that the deterrent effect of the death penalty is, to say the least, not demonstrated. And, even a number of countries which have maintained the death penalty query its value as a deterrent in their official replies. This is true of the replies of Spain, Greece, Turkey, and in particular of the United Kingdom, and also (with qualifications) Japan.

"194. Many other government replies, however, state that no final opinion can be expressed as to whether the death penalty has a deterrent effect or not. This is the view of Austria and Yugoslavia.

"195. In the United States, many studies have been carried out on the deterrent effect of the death penalty on the basis of crime statistics, but these studies are largely the work of private specialists and there is no government reply on this specific point.".

1. United Nations-Capital Punishment, (1962), pp. 53-54, para. 191-195. See also p. 1.



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