Death sentence: Choosing between cruelties

IT is a core belief of modern, vaguely liberal democracies that it is wrong to execute a person because of a crime they have committed, or at least one they been convicted of.

Indeed, the rules of the European Union insist any country allowing capital punishment may not become a member.

That belief was celebrated in recent days when Nebraska became the first conservative US state in more than 40 years to abolish the death penalty. Nebraska joins 18 other states and Washington DC in outlawing the death penalty.

This is as most people would wish but another development at the other end of the world yesterday must at least colour the welcome for the Nebraska vote.

In Australia Adrian Bayley, the man who raped and murdered Jill Meagher in September 2012, had his fixed sentence extended to 2058 because of other rapes.

We abhor capital punishment as an unwarranted cruelty but how could you describe sending a man, no matter how odious, to jail for what in effect will, after decades, become a death sentence too, one that uses time rather than the gallows to kill?

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