E-petitions urge MPs to debate return of death penalty


Sir George Young: "This is part of a strategy of making the Commons more relevant"

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The first "e-petitions" - which allow the public to prompt parliamentary debates if they get enough support - have been published by the government.

The return of the death penalty heads the list of demands, with dozens of separate campaigns calling for it.

However a petition opposing its return was the most popular one six hours after the site launched.

Other suggestions include keeping all Formula One races on terrestrial TV, leaving the EU and a lower voting age.

Petitions gaining more than 100,000 signatures could lead to a full debate in the House of Commons.

Ministers have warned MPs not to "ignore" the public's suggestions.

More than 40 of the first 200 or so petitions published called for the return of capital punishment, the most popular attracting more than 1,000 supporters by 1800 BST.

But the most popular petition was one opposed to the return of the death penalty, which had gained more than 2,700 signatures.

Several petitions call for all Formula One races to be shown live on terrestrial TV, following the announcement last week that the BBC will be sharing coverage with Sky Sports.

The most popular gained more than 1,000 signatories by 1800 BST.

Raised threshold?

One petition recommends the televising of court proceedings and another that the price of alcohol be increased.

One demands that prisoners' diets be restricted to bread and water, as in the "good old days", another that bodybuilding should be encouraged to improve the nation's health.

Paul Staines, who writes the Guido Fawkes blog, is campaigning for the re-introduction of the death penalty

Any petition signed by more than 100,000 UK citizens goes to the cross-party Commons backbench business committee, which will decide whether it is worthy of debate.

This does not mean any parliamentary bills will be tabled as a result, simply that the matter will be discussed.

Leader of the House of Commons, Sir George Young, told BBC News the threshold for debating an e-petition could be raised if too many reached the signatures target.

He said: "We do want to monitor it to see if we've got the threshold either too high or too low.

"This is a new initiative and we've set 100,000 because we think that's roughly the right target, but if lots and lots of petitions sail through that barrier then we may need to see if it should be higher.

"If none of them are able to reach that target then we may need to lower it."

'Crazy ideas'

Since launching on Thursday, the e-petitions site has experienced problems, with about 1,000 people a minute logging on.

A government spokesman said: "We apologise for any inconvenience experienced as people try to access e-petitions - this is a result of greater-than-expected demand."

Neil Durkin from Amnesty International on debating the death penalty: "It is a relic of the past."

Any petition deemed to be libellous, offensive, duplicates of existing open petitions or not related to government will be rejected.

Moderators will also block any that concern honours and appointments.

But Labour have said the petitions could lead to debates on "crazy ideas".

The system replaces the previous e-petitions pages on the Downing Street website, set up when Tony Blair was PM.

The most popular of these, with more than 1.8 million people in support, opposed road pricing.

More than 70,000 backed the one-word suggestion that Gordon Brown should "resign".

And almost 50,000 signed up to the idea that TV presenter Jeremy Clarkson should become prime minister.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 788.

    Referendum on leaving the EU ."

    well, as of a few minutes ago no-one has raised such a petition. Unlike the other petitions raised this can't, in reality, be the "burning issue" it is made out to be.

  • rate this

    Comment number 787.

    In having DNA, you are 1 in a billion of being the culprit, and in terms of being a paedophile for example, that is the most disgusting, act anyone can lower themselves too, to hurt a defenceless child, and being a dad I would want revenge, but they deserve to have their life taken as they have taken the child's innocence and life forever. And they are a burden to society.

  • rate this

    Comment number 786.

    To death penalty supporters -

    Let's say 1 out of 100 people executed for murder is found to be innocent...do you honestly believe that one person's life was worth taking to punish the 99 guilty? If so, I pity you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 785.

    709.Total Mass Retain
    cont. Is it you diagree with the right to a fair trial; the right to a free press; the right not to be incarcerated without judicial review; Perhaps you don't want freedom of expression, the right to marry, the right to privacy, assembly, religion etc etc.


    Sheer bluster.
    We had all those things before the EHCR was undemocratically forced on us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 784.

    "David Horton
    Correct, so lets get out of the criminal-friendly and farcical ECHR as well."

    So, you approve of torture, invasion of privacy, arbitrary imprisonment and punishment , restrictions on the press, no right to marry, no right to assemble, no free speech etc etc. When you object to the ECHR (ratified by Churchill, BTW) have you ever read it? Sounds you like totalitarianism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 783.

    The e-petition site currently measures 'quantity of visitors who voice support' for a petition. This system is highly susceptible to marketing tides.

    One way to better reflect the balance of public opinion would be to place a 'sign counter-petition' option alongside the 'sign petition' option.

    E-petition is an interesting concept for democracy, but is in its infancy... and teething.

  • rate this

    Comment number 782.

    From an ethical standpoint, the fact that the likes of Fred West took his own life is reason enough in my mind for him to be forced to sustain it. They should be kept alive for the full extent of their crime to unravel on their conscience. Cruel and unusual punishment though it may be. People sometimes think that executing someone is the harshest punishment. It is not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 781.

    @607 'Paul'. You criticised my frustrated post at failed government e-petition site. You are right & wrong. Let's hope that this site will be open for our family and for everyone. I will look forward to an opportunity to even enter the Government e-petition collapsed web-site.

    Sadly, the BBC appear to be running on death penalty that most assume was an e-petition? Yet unsubstantiated!

  • rate this

    Comment number 780.

    The death penalty is probably a violation of human rights legislation.
    Which would imply there is little to discuss.

  • rate this

    Comment number 779.


    It's strange that people are talking about Scotland's devolved criminal justice system - the murder rate in Scotland is a reasonable bit higher than England!

    Not saying which was is better, but it is peculiar that it is noticeably higher.

  • rate this

    Comment number 778.

    Ye Gods...the voice of the public? Are we insane? This is the very public that bought the News of the World on a regular basis and gobbled up its revolting gossip and slander. It's bad enough that these morons have the vote, let alone that we start letting them push their mindless, ill thought-through knee-jerk nonsense on our legislature.

  • rate this

    Comment number 777.

    The epetition site is poorly set up & moderated. It keeps producing error messages, & although the rules specify that there should not be duplicates of existing petitions, there were 7 variants on "Bring back hanging." at the last count! Also petitions are supposed to specifically ask the Goverment to take a particular action. Many are just being used as a chance for a rant!

  • rate this

    Comment number 776.

    Having the death penalty gives several 'unintended' consequences:
    - people are not going to confess to a crime which has the possibility of a death sentence
    - jurors are less likely to find someone guilty of a crime which has the possibility of a death sentence

    Even '100%' evidence is not 100%. Unless someone actually commits the crime in front of the jury, the evidence could have been altered

  • rate this

    Comment number 775.

    642. David Horton

    Oh yes it is.
    It deters the murderer from doing it again. Ever."

    So does a life sentence. It doesn't deter anyone *before* the crime.

    "I regard child murder as more morally wrong than executing the beast who did it."


    Two wrongs now make a right, do they?

    "You didn't mention revenge...?"


    Revenge solves nothing & I can't think of a worst place for it than in justice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 774.

    Th death penalty.
    It would cause more problems than it would solve in the courts! Who is to say one murderer is more deserving than another? I realise that this form of punishment is in use in certain states in the U.S, but their legal systems are quite different to our own, ELS.
    People say it would act as a detterent, but it would not 'deter' petty theives and other various forms of crime.

  • rate this

    Comment number 773.

    People like Brady and Huntley crave death. Do you want to give them what they crave? I'm happy to let them rot in their cells facing the miserable consequences of their actions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 772.

    Online polls or petitions are useful, letting MP's know what some people feel strongly about. Sometimes, dammit, public opinion is just plain wrong
    ..... in these situations we need leadership not 'followership'.
    The death penalty belongs in the past, has no place in a civilised society and any such calls should be strongly resisted

  • rate this

    Comment number 771.

    What is it precisely about Sharia Law that Sun & Daily Mail readers dislike? They appear to agree with it, ironically!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 770.

    and the behaviour of humans who infringe the rights of others is usually punishable under existing laws. Human rights are about ensuring governments and their agents do no abuse the rights of those in their care. Such as alleged or convicted criminals who are entitled to some protections from arbitrary and inhumane treatment whilst in the care of the state and its agents.

  • rate this

    Comment number 769.

    Mike wrote:"I’ll wait until later when the taxpayers get home from work and are able to restore a sense of balance, rather than just listening to left wingers and students sounding off during the day"

    Do left-wingers not work? Where are you as you write Mike?


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