Keep Capital Punishment Confined to History

With the recent e-petition started by right wing blogger Guido Fawkes on restoring the death penalty, seemingly losing out to a counter petition on retaining the ban by a ratio of 2:1, I thought this might be a good time to resurrect a contribution I made to a UKIP members forum a couple of years back on the same subject. Happily I saw sense, and allowed the membership to lapse shortly afterwards.

Does anybody remember the appalling miscarriage of justice suffered by Stefan Kiszko, who was jailed in 1976 for the rape and murder of 11 year old Lesley Molseed?

 Until this case became public, I too like many people, believed that the death penalty should remain an option in certain circumstances, but I have now changed my mind. The forensic evidence available at the time, which showed that the impotent Kiszko could not have been the killer, was suppressed by the police, who then bullied out of him the false confession that resulted in his conviction.

Kiszko was released in 1992, following a long campaign and a re-investigation into the original police handling of the case, but it took a further fifteen years before the real killer was finally brought to justice. Sadly Kiszko never got to see this, as he was dead from a massive heart attack less than a year after regaining his freedom, caused by Home Office foot dragging over the compensation he was entitled to.

What this particular case illustrates is that the Molseed family were victimised twice; not only for the loss of their child, but also for the fact that it took more than thirty years to nail the real killer due to police malpractice. Furthermore, the Kiszko family too became victims, as both Stefan and his mother who led the campaign to free him, were dead within months of each other. In a further indictment of our criminal justice system, none of the police officers involved in the original investigation, have ever been made to properly account for themselves in a court of law, with two of the three originally charged with perversion of the course of justice, having since died themselves. 

Even with the advances in DNA profiling and other forensic science, what should always be remembered is this: DNA evidence is physical evidence; and like all physical evidence is prone to manipulation or, as in Kiszko’s case, suppression by unscrupulous coppers intent on getting a result. Despite the safeguards implemented since the original Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 came into force, we still have miscarriages of justice with among others, the Cardiff Three, the Taylor sisters, and the Tottenham Three, all having their convictions quashed since PACE came into force.

 There can never be 100% certainty with regards to all criminal cases, and to ask juries to decide a person’s fate based on “probabilities” or “reasonable doubt” risks such cases as Kiszko’s happening again. 

If we restore capital punishment and then get it wrong; no amount of compensation or profuse apologies, will bring back the wrongfully convicted from the grave.

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