Should We Bring Back the Death Penalty?


The death penalty is a controversial issue the world over.

Globally, human rights organisations campaign to put an end to execution as a form of punishment, while some countries maintain that the death penalty is necessary, and has a valid place as a form of criminal justice.

Australia abolished the death penalty in 1973, although the last person to be executed in Australia was in 1967.

Internationally, Australia takes a firm stance against capital punishment, and in 2007 voted for a UN General Assembly global moratorium on the death penalty.

In spite of Australia’s public stance against the death penalty, there are those who still support capital punishment and believe there are good reasons why the death penalty should be brought back as a legal punishment for certain offences.

A number of people have made comments about the death penalty over the years and suggested that it should be reintroduced, but federal legislation was put in place in 2010 to prevent this happening.

It could still theoretically be possible to reintroduce the death penalty into the Australian states, but it would be very difficult to do so.

Arguments for the death penalty

There are a number of arguments that are often stated in favour of the death penalty and these generally centre on the idea of justice and what a just punishment is for a serious crime like murder.

Those in favour of the death penalty believe that the only fair way to punish someone for taking another person’s life is to take their life.

Deterrence is another common argument in favour of bringing back the death penalty.

It could be argued that simply having the death penalty as an option may deter people from committing serious crimes like murder, and therefore make Australia a safer country.

Similarly, it can be argued that the death penalty prevents serious criminals from reoffending which is a possibility if they are imprisoned and then later released on parole or they manage to escape.

Even if they are imprisoned without the possibility of parole, it is possible that they could pose a danger to other prison inmates and staff.

There are a number of other arguments in favour of the death penalty, including providing closure to families of victims and reducing overpopulation in the prison system.

Arguments against the death penalty

Human rights organisations like Amnesty International list a number of reasons why they believe the death penalty should be abolished for good.

The abolition of the death penalty in Australia and the subsequent support of abolition worldwide is backed up by a number of arguments.

The death penalty is the most final punishment possible, and there have been cases where people have been executed and then later found to be innocent.

As death is irreversible there is no way to make amends for a wrongful conviction, and if there is even the slightest chance of an error it means that an innocent person could end up being killed.

The methods used for execution and capital punishment are often painful and humiliating and this forms a strong argument against bringing back the death penalty.

For many who are against the death penalty, the methods used to execute people as well as the psychological effects of being on death row, sometimes for decades, are unacceptable breaches of human rights.

There is no conclusive evidence that the death penalty is effective as a deterrent.

In many countries including Canada, the murder rate has actually decreased in the years since the death penalty was abolished.

The death penalty goes against the possibility of rehabilitation and is believed by many to be an unfair consequence for those with mental or cognitive impairments.

It also costs more to execute a prisoner than to keep them in jail for life, using resources which could be put to better use elsewhere in the criminal justice system.

Given the restrictions on the re-introduction of the death penalty in Australia it is highly unlikely that it will ever be brought back, but there is no doubt the debate will continue well into the future.


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About Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim is an Accredited Specialist Criminal Lawyer and Principal at Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, Sydney's leading firm of criminal and traffic defence lawyers.

2 comments

  1. Ian Dews

    The death penalty must be brought back into Australia urgently. The reason is why is our jail system is overflowing nowadays ? Also our people are too scared to go onto the streets as they do fear of getting murder by these criminals. The jail system is like a motel nowadays for the the criminals in which they do get the benefits of free goods from the taxpayer’s money. Have a good think & consideration as there will be less criminals lurking on the streets if the death penalty will be brought back into Australia by the Federal Parliament as a deterrent like Sir Henry Bolte Premier of Victoria in the 1960’s to1970’s & the people will be much more safer in the streets of Australia then. God willing. Thank you.

  2. Philip Johnston

    I support Capital Punishment by hanging by the neck for convicted criminals if found guilty ‘beyond any doubt of guilt’ of committing a Vicious, Premeditated, Unprovoked Murder/s because –
    *      such Murders should once again be discouraged with a Punishment that resonates a strong Deterrent;
    *      the QOL for an inmate serving a Life Sentence marked Never To Be Released may be negative due to manic depression and at best be very low as identified in Documented Medical Reports/Journals/Articles; and
    *      $150,000 pa cost per maximum security prisoner cannot be justified to keep despondent humans permanently in that mental state when or prisons system is in crisis and ‘health’ and ‘education’ budgets funded by taxpayers are a higher priority. This includes extensive Rehabilitation and Education programmes for 99% of all Inmates, so more can return to employment post-release.
    Between 1989 and 1993 Ivan Milat viciously and sadistically murdered seven young backpackers, aged 19 to 22, in the Belanglo State Forest, 15 kilometres from Berrima NSW. Five of the victims were foreign backpackers visiting Australia (three German, two British). Two were Australian travellers from Melbourne. Five of the seven victims were females. Ivan Milat is Never To Be Released from maximum security incarceration. 
    In 2012, Ivan Milat’s great-nephew, Matthew Milat, and his friend, Cohen Klein, (both aged 19 at the time of their sentencing) were sentenced to 43 years and 32 years in prison, respectively, for murdering David Auchterlonie on his 17th birthday with an axe at the Belanglo State Forest in 2010. Matthew Milat struck Auchterlonie with the double-headed axe as Klein recorded the attack with a mobile phone.  This was the same forest where Ivan Milat had killed and buried his victims.
    QUESTION:
    Would David Auchterlonie be alive today, and Matthew Milat, Cohen Klein not be serving very long and costly gaol sentences, had Ivan Milat been executed by hanging promptly after being found guilty by a NSW court of sadistically and methodically murdering seven backpacker?
    Casual empiricism suggests a reasonable likelihood, say 50%, that David Auchterlonie would still be sleeping, breathing and eating had Ivan Milat been swiftly executed and not jailed until his death by natural causes at a cost to the Public Purse of $150,000 p.a.

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