The death penalty - the arguments for and against

Prison officer locks a prison door

In some countries it is legal to kill someone if they have committed a terrible crime. This is called a death sentence, or the death penalty.

It is not legal in Britain.

There are lots of reasons why people think it's right or wrong.

Here are some of the arguments:

Arguments for the death penalty

  • If someone murders someone else, they have given up their human rights, including the one to stay alive themselves
  • The punishment should 'fit the crime' - if you have killed someone, you should be killed too
  • Giving a killer the death sentence will stop them - and others - doing it again
  • The very small chance of executing the wrong person is balanced by the benefits to society of putting off other murderers

Arguments against the death penalty

  • The death penalty goes against our most basic human right - the right to life
  • Being killed by lethal injection or being electrocuted is not always smooth and painless, sometimes it causes a painful death
  • No-one has ever proven with numbers that killing murderers stops other people committing similar crimes
  • Mistakes are sometimes made in the law - what if someone is killed who is actually innocent?

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