First of all, I would like to take this opportunity to say that following my E-mail to my local M.P that I have had absolutely no response; not even a standardised reply from his office. I am very disappointed even a tad disgusted that no one can even be bothered to reply to me but do wonder if I am a little naive for expecting any response. Maybe I should be more aware of just what a wasteful society we live in and maybe the fact that I am not just emphasises even more my naivety but I kind of thought I might get some kind of an reply even if it was just a thank-you for your concerns. This kind of restores my lack of faith in politicians!
I saw another programme that resonated with me last night and had a great emotional impact; it was called The Execution Of Gary Glitter, some of you may have seen it, and was shown on channel 4. A work of fiction, it took the premise that the death penalty had been restored to Britain and was re-established as a viable means of dealing with murderers and sex offenders guilty of offences against children under 12. Paul Gadd, known better to the public as Gary Glitter, had been extradited from Vietnam for crimes committed there and was to be charged and sentenced as a way of trying out this new legislation. The man playing the role of Paul Gadd was very good- managing scarily to both look and sound exactly like the convicted paedophile. This made for very uncomfortable and yet strangely compulsive viewing!
I think the purpose of the drama was to make us question just whether or not we really SHOULD bring back hanging by throwing the grim reality of the consequence directly in the public's face. Lots of people talk about bringing back the death penalty but, as last night attempted to show, the reality of the situation is vastly different to what most people perceive. For starters, someone has to pull the lever and whilst many people might claim they would not skimp at such a task, you have to ask just how many people actually would be capable? When you break it down to the bare bones, you are asking someone to take another's life no matter how deserving of that punishment they might be and that is going to have an effect on you personally and is something you are always going to have to live with. Likewise for the jury. Could you live with the fact that your decision had sent someone directly to their death? That you singularly were responsible?
I am not arguing that these people such as Paul Gadd deserve any sympathy- hell no! - but by surrendering them to public execution you have to ask whether you are crossing a moral line and reducing yourself to their level. Surely the whole point of justice is to establish that we are above their base immorality; that we are, in fact, "better" than them and more human? As soon as you cross a certain line, do you not risk the danger of becoming just like them?
It was interesting because all through his trial and the sentencing, Paul Gadd seemed unable to accept that what was going to happen to him was actually going to be his fate. Perhaps because such a punishment had not been administered for 46 years in Britain and because his case was so far unprecedented, Gadd seemed to think that his death sentence was never going to go through. But, unlike in the States, in Britain it was stated that a person sentenced to hanging would be executed within 30 days of judgement leaving little time for appeal. Of course, his defence counsel applied to the Home Secretary for annulment of the penalty but it was left to the final moments before we discovered that such an appeal, the only one that could be made under the circumstances, had been denied.
I said at the beginning that the programme was emotional and indeed, towards the end, I found myself almost choking up. Not because I in any way, shape or form felt sorry for this fictional depiction of Paul Gadd, because such people physically disgust and revile me, but because the execution of another human being is always going to be a horrible thing to watch. And this had been shown as though it was a real documentary with only a disclosure at the beginning and between advert breaks that this was a work of fiction.
Paul Gadd made for a pitiful sight in his final moments; as he was escorted from his cell and the hood was placed over his head, you heard him utter "This is a wind-up right....?" It was truly horrifying to hear the panic in his voice as he realised the truth finally of what was about to happen. It sent chills down my spine and was one of the most uncomfortable and distressing things I have ever witnessed on television. I wish to repeat- I FELT NO SYMPATHY FOR THE ACCUSED IN ANY SHAPE OR FORM but to put another person to death is in no ways something I feel I could promote. Before this programme, I thought that yes a return to the death penalty was a good move but I question now the moral implications or the ethics of such a decision. It is true that there is always the danger that an innocent person will be put to death, though there was no question of innocence in this case, and also that whereas DNA evidence now is judged to be perfectly admissible, in future years who is to say that some new discovery will not come along better than DNA evidence that will mean DNA testimony is then questionable? But there is also the question of just how far are we willing to go for justice? Do we really want to bring back an eye for an eye in what is supposed to be a civilised society?
I think the death sentence's return would be a double-edged sword. Something needs to be addressed as crime levels are higher now than they have ever been with many more recorded instances of murder, rape and child abuse being reported. And there is widespread belief that criminals are treated way too leniently by both the courts and the Prison service but how far ARE we prepared to go? Would the death penalty REALLY be any kind of deterrent?
Last night was all about what good television should truly be about. Television programming should sometimes make us question what we think we know about society and force us to address certain important issues. It shouldn't just be about Eastenders or Hollyoaks. The programme last night stated in it's closing moments that 54% of people asked advocated a return of the death penalty. That is only a small majority but it would be interesting to know if last nights programme changed any of that 54%'s views. As for me, I am more sitting on the fence than I was before the programme but think if pressed I would go against a return of such barbaric measures! I know one thing; I would not have wanted to be on the jury that passed the final sentence! I am not sure if I could live with the weight of such a decision and I definitely would not want to be in the viewing gallery on the day of his execution! I think such a sight would remain with me for the rest of my life and surely that is more a punishment for the viewer than for the convicted; the convicted loses his or her life but it is the person who helped put him or her there that has to live on with the memory of what they have done! And if that is the case, then just who is ending up being punished??
Everyone responsible for last night's production should truly be commended. It was a brave decision to air such a highly controversial drama and everyone in it played their role to chilling perfection. How dirty must the person who played Paul Gadd feel now I wonder? His was so accurate a portrayal that it almost felt like you were watching the real Paul Gadd! Many will think this was just a piece of media sensationalism and maybe in part they are right, but it is my belief that it was done very well and I do wonder how the real Paul Gadd would feel about it should he got a chance to watch it. He came over as totally unremorseful in this last night and totally unforgiving. With that in mind, I wonder if he might not merely be bemused. But then he is a sick fuck who should be given little consideration in the first place!