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Why the Death Penalty Should Never Be Restored in the U.K.

Updated on August 21, 2018
ethel smith profile image

With a keen interest in British politics this writer is never afraid to share her opinion

The Gallows

Why the debate?

As a liberal minded individual, when I was younger, I could never agree to the death penalty or Capital Punishment, as it is also called.

Thirty odd years down the road my gut instinct still leans this way but with some reservations.

Writing about a dear elderly local lady who was brutally beaten to death in her own home set me thinking about the death penalty.

Murder is always a nasty business but this lady's attacker was heartless and cruel. She suffered more than many other victims and in such a terrible way.

The devastating effects to her loved ones will be felt forever.

The perpetrator admitted his guilt and so had his sentence reduced to a minimum of 22 years.

The circumstances and admission of guilt leave me in no doubt that capital punishment would have been the only fair sentence for this crime when hanging was still lawful.

Similarly the Yorkshire Ripper, who many years ago murdered many young women deserved the same fate. His guilt was never in doubt.

The little niggling doubts that I do have regarding capital punishment are because of those who have been and may still be wrongly convicted.

In many countries around the world people are wrongly committed to jail and lose years of their life before justice prevails.

Their life is often damaged beyond repair but at least they do still have life.

The rape and murder of Teresa de Simone in 1979

There have been so many of these cases down the years.

The implications of convicting the wrong man or woman are huge. Lives ruined and those guilty left free to commit more crimes is just part of the problem.

Teresa de Simone

Teresa was aged 22 at the time of her death and working as a clerk for the Gas Board. As an only child her loss would be even more painful to her family although any such loss is devastating.

Robert Sean Hodgson was found guilty and sentenced for this crime in 1982 serving 27 years in prison before the truth was finally revealed

The man now known to have been the actual killer was David Lace.

This man confessed this crime in 1983 which was the same year that Sean and his legal team launched an appeal against his conviction. Lace's confession was not revealed however to the defence team.

In 1988 David Lace committed suicide.

Perhaps the crime he had committed was weighing heavily on his shoulders but we will never know. Perhaps this man desired retribution. Perhaps, if he had served an appropriate sentence he would have lived.

Who knows?

Of course this leaves one wondering why his confession was never revealed to those that needed to know. When Lace was dead perhaps it was deemed unnecessary but what about the years before this?

Here is another point

If we still did not have DNA advances the true perpetrator of this crime would have never been discovered.

DNA has put a whole new slant on criminal detection.

David Lace was only 17 when he committed this rape and murder and so was a very young man. With his suicide the reasoning, if any behind his crime, became impossible to discover.

However he may have just been a bad penny.

Young Lace was described as an aggressive loner. When questioned about a series of burglaries in 1983 Lace stated that:-

He could no longer live with what he had done and that he was better off in prison. He then submitted to a more detailed interview by officers from the murder investigation.

A record of the interview was made and below are details and the reasons why Lace was never recognized as a serious suspect:-

A record of the interview made in September 1983 revealed that Lace said he had stolen a rucksack and cash from a meter at his lodgings in Portsmouth and walked to Southampton, where he saw De Simone being dropped back to her car by a friend.

After tapping on the car window and asking her the time, he had forced his way into the vehicle, locked the doors and used violence to subdue her.

She struggled, he sexually assaulted her and strangled her using the passenger belt in the car. He admitted subjecting Teresa to a violent assault and sensed he had killed her.

He removed her cash and jewellery, leaving his victim across the back seat. "He hid for approximately 10 minutes before going back to Southampton railway station and catching a train back to Portsmouth."

But officers investigating the confession had decided it revealed "numerous and significant inconsistencies", including giving the wrong colour of the car, its number of doors, times, an incorrect description of De Simone's clothing and a description of violence that seemed inconsistent with her injuries."

So Lace was sent on his way which inevitably led to an innocent man serving 27 years in jail and his own suicide

This case is very strange as seven men in all admitted carrying out this crime.

These seven men included Hodgson as well as Lace.

Why Hodgson had confessed I do not know.

Police pressure?

It could be any number of reasons and only Sean Hodgson will truly know why. It appears though that Hodgson had already confessed to over 200 crimes before this one as he was a pathological liar.

Poetic Justice some may say? Not I though.

I would say a person with problems.

In 1998 Robert Sean Hodgson appealed again against his conviction and this time vital DNA evidence went missing.

Early in 2009 a further appeal was launched by Hodgson and his team. With advances in DNA technology and database information a link between Lace and the murder was suspected.

In March Hodgson was released from prison.

In August 2009 David Lace's body was exhumed and finally the truth was known. His DNA was a perfect match.

This has left Teresa's elderly parents facing more anguish.

Robert Sean Hodgson has since been released from prison and was initially living in respite care whilst receiving psychiatric treatment.

You may have many differing opinions in this case but would capital punishment have served justice?

Certainly Hodgson was wrong to confess this crime but how come the police took his confession seriously, with such a track record.

He could have been a free man much sooner if in 1998 the DNA evidence had not been lost.

With seven confessions it makes you wonder if these confessions were extracted unlawfully.

Times change and DNA is a wonderful discovery but what if David Lace had been cremated?

Also as this case shows vital DNA can be lost.All of this only makes me more cautious about restoring the death penalty

Many innocent people have wrongly served time, and they did not confess. Hodgson's only link to this crime was a shared blood group that was also shared with 30% of the population as a whole and a dodgy confession.

As technology moves on we may one day find that we can sentence a person knowing with 100% certainty that they are guilty.

Presently human error, corruption and more can play a part.

Until 100% accuracy is achievable the death sentence could only ever be restored given certain circumstances and limitations.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Robert Sean Hodgson on release, Sean is on the left. He is with his brotherTeresaThe body of David Lace is exhumed
Robert Sean Hodgson on release, Sean is on the left. He is with his brother
Robert Sean Hodgson on release, Sean is on the left. He is with his brother
The body of David Lace is exhumed
The body of David Lace is exhumed

So, where do you stand in the debate?

Should we still have the death sentence

See results

© 2009 Ethel Smith


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