One half of the demonic duo infamous for the barbaric Moors Murder rampage targeting children in the 1960s was pronounced dead at the age of 79 years old yesterday; 69 years older than the age of his youngest victim.
Partnered with Myra Hindley, Ian Brady was found guilty 51 years ago for torturing and murdering John Kilbride [aged 12], Lesley Ann Downey [aged 10], and Edward Evans [aged 17].
He later also confessed to further murders of Pauline Reade [aged 16] and Keith Bennett [aged 12].
The abhorrent nature of his crimes combined with the age Ian Brady has survived until – Myra Hindley died incarcerated in 2002 – will no doubt bring the question to the forefront of many conversation threads; should we bring back the death penalty?
Few crimes capture the public’s attention like the Moors Murders. Years of war and terrorism etc have led to the desensitization of society yet when you hear mentions of the likes of Harold Shipman, the Wests and/or Ian Brady and Myra Hindley it brings back the shock and horror of their heinous acts.
The murder of Edward Evans was as ghastly a crime as any, with it reported he was struck with a hatchet 14 times before death by strangulation. Some of their other victims were recorded and photographed for the duration of their torturous ordeals in order for the couples own gratification. Most were then scattered/buried within the Moors near to Manchester. And as with many convicted serial killers there was no remorse to be found upon capture; BBC News reports that during the trial Brady blandly described his personal recordings as simply unusual.
Tragically, as with all infamous murders and serial killer stories, due to the ways in which our media covers these events – thriving on the publicity and attention that horrific acts generate – the victims are consigned to footnotes in history as we focus on the monsters. The mother of Keith Bennett died 5 years ago without ever finding the body of her murdered son to at least obtain closure; insultingly Ian Brady outlived the poor woman and allegedly even refused on his death bed to give up the location so that Keith’s surviving family members could finally give him a Christian burial (he was never prosecuted for the murder).
Ironically, the question of the death penalty may never have arisen from this point of view had they been caught/tried just a little bit sooner as the law was abolished merely a few months prior to the 3 life sentences handed to Ian Brady.
There are crimes that are so inhumane that the people convicted will never see the light of day and arguably shouldn’t be incarcerated with people who may one day be released due to the negative influence they may have. For people like Myra Hindley and Ian Brady who not only committed these atrocious acts but showed no remorse for them (even after 20 years behind bars with the former spending countless futile attempts to convince the courts/public that she was coerced into these crimes by Brady and should therefore be given the opportunity of parole!) then surely it is a waste of taxpayers money to keep them locked up for life as opposed to executing them?
Ian Brady is a man who supposedly attracted Hindley to him through his charm and persuasive nature which no doubt was strengthened by his passion for Nazi Germany ideology; we all know their strengths in manipulation and indoctrination. So surely, whether he was kept in solitary or not, this man poses too much of a threat to keep alive? Influencing even a few people inside the prison could pose more damage than the morality of not succumbing to the theory of eye-for-an-eye revenge.
In fact a large argument in favour of the death penalty is indeed the amount of taxpayers money it is estimated to cost to keep these criminals alive every year and locked up within maximum security units; somewhere between £40-65,000 per year. This is obviously excluding the initial costs for the police forces tasked with investigating and building a case, court cases etc not to mention any of the NHS services they require – and legally have access to – throughout their sentence. It is a valid point and certainly both this issue and the commonly paired problem of prison overcrowding would be solved if some of the more violent offenders – ie life without parole such as Michael Adebolajo, Lee’s Rigby’s assassin – were simply executed instead of wasting time and money as caged tax leeches.
What this argument potentially forgets, is the cost it takes to execute a criminal. Provided they were planning to incorporate the law in a way similar to that of the US rather than the seemingly more efficient though ethically questionable ways of China/North Korea/Saudi Arabia, executing a convicted felon can take years at considerable cost.
In 2010, it was calculated that the average death row inmate in America spends 15 years in solitary confinement before the sentence of death is eventually carried out. It can obviously take a lot longer than that on occasion as well. Per the Independent’s article on Keith Doolin – a death row inmate of over 20 years – as of 2015, California had executed 13 of the 900 people sentenced by its courts since 1978! This is due to the long and drawn out procedure of carrying out the sentence due to the numerous appeal stages put in place because of the finality of the end result; with execution there can’t be grey areas of a ‘Making a Murderer’ kind!
As a result, in 2016, America had 2,902 death row inmates which, based on information provided by DPIC (Death Penalty Information Centre – website), is unlikely to decrease any time soon considering the country has averaged 35.4 executions since 1976 and has steadily trended down to merely 20 in 2016.
The same source also quotes some figures regarding the cost of these death sentences. Estimates from Palm Beach Post suggest that if Florida had punished first-degree murderers with life in prison without parole rather than pursue capital punishment they would have saved approximately $51million a year whilst in Texas, each death penalty case in Texas costs taxpayers about $2.3 million; 3 times the cost of maintaining a convict in a maximum security cell for 40 years.
So effectively, based on the model demonstrated by our Western allies, the death penalty would in fact cost a whole lot more without returning any results on the overcrowding problem even if at startup we met the US average for years spent before sentence is carried out.
In fact some states have seen their Governors ordering the build of more death row cells! Considering the appeals, additional guard/security required, each prisoner being kept solitary and the luxuries (most TV documentaries show death row convicts with far more entertainment in their cells than general population) it’s not really surprising that they cost more; it can’t be done in bulk in the way prisons are usually run!
Finally I think the largest argument is that it both settles a sense of maximum punishment (biblically styled vengeance and a strong deterrent) whilst serving as a great tool for prosecutors to negotiate with. Prosecutors looking to drive defendant confessions to save the cost/time of trial or potentially attempting to secure important information to further other criminal/federal investigations can offer to remove the threat of pursuing a death penalty and certainly I can’t argue against that logic; though ethically I’m sure it has led to many a wrongful conviction for those financially vulnerable who, unable to afford good legal representation, would rather confess than risk execution due to incompetency.
Regarding punishment, I do question whether it truly is a better punishment for the worst offenders. Those sitting on death row awaiting an execution date, as prison life goes, appear to have it easier than most. Whilst the lack of proper human interaction is likely difficult for some, an overwhelming number of the people convicted of those crimes have proven human interaction is not something overly important based on their prior actions. Similarly, death seems to in fact be what a large percentage of these ‘lifer’ convicts would prefer.
Many of these hardened criminals or psychopathic serial killers are supremely arrogrant, borderline narcissistic. They think they are above anything and everything, including the law. They live for the notoriety, the BTK killer actually provided the press with that name because it’s how he wanted to be known whilst the Zodiac actually chose to constantly prove he hadn’t been caught because they hated losing the limelight. Look at the recently deceased superstar turned murderous gangbanger Aaron Hernandez who I recently wrote about; couldn’t turn away from the thuggish lifestyle he was so addicted too because he truly felt he could get away with anything but as soon as that was removed from him he couldn’t live anymore. He chose death OVER life in prison.
Similarly in this particular case, Ian Brady was never foolish enough to seek parole – though according to Peter Gould he was often invited to – but as a control freak he did wish to choose when/how to die. Having lost all sense of control by being consigned to a mental institution where he was regulated, told what to do and when to do it he actually elected to go on hunger strike just in order to exercise some individual authority; he’d either die by his own hand or be allowed back into prison. It also gave him some much craved attention as he was given a voice – though small – in closed hearings to exercise his few remaining rights.
Being caged denies a human being their basic right and deprives them of their own natural instinct for survival. Many animal activists and sympathisers continue to protest against zoos due to their cruel nature and the effect it has on the health physically and mentally of the animals. Humans have much greater awareness and IQs than animals and compared to most animals in captivity, convicts on the whole have experienced the alternative making it that much harder to bear.
Not only are we depriving them of their freedom but they are stripped of almost all decision making given choices in just a minimum of circumstances. Everything is regimented and so for narcissistic people like Brady it is probably torture hence the need to choose a way out.
You need only watch a couple of the many prison documentaries out there whether it is the ‘Lockup’ series on Netflix or a Louis Theroux documentary to see that criminals in some of America’s harshest prisons serving 900 year prison sentences only get through the day by some delusional vision of one day being released.
I can think of nothing more dehumanising and punishing than that type of lifestyle for decade after decade knowing that it’ll be the same until I die of which I know not when. Too often people assume that those who commit these crimes are wholely different to all others in society because it is scary to believe a normal human is capable of those acts. The scary reality is different; most of them live normal lives and enjoy similar hobbies as the rest of us when not commiting these vile acts. It’s not a coincedence that, as reported by Peter Gould, whilst serving his time Brady became interested in the classic works enjoyed by so many of society’s normal citizens. If Fred West truly was completely cold and indifferent it’s unlikely he’d have hung himself rather than face the public on trial over his crimes.
Realistically, the nightmare of prison and the mental demons it brings to light are just as likely to be faced by murderers as it would anyone else. Why sentence them to death when it would appear some of these criminals would prefer that option? There is nothing that can truly be justice for the crimes committed nor will anything bring the victims back or peace to their remaining loved ones.
At least with life sentences though, the pain is not brought back to the surface for those close to the victim every time the criminal appeals a death sentence. It doesn’t take 10-20 years to receive closure and know the sentence will be carried out, instead they can move on or at least try to.
I don’t think the justice system is perfect but how can it be? I do think however we should refrain from ever entertaining the idea of a death penalty not only because of its failures to solve any of the current problems facing our penitentiaries but because its the easy way out for those to be punished. In fact the only thing I would change is we do need life sentences to mean life. In all likelihood Ian Brady would never have been granted parole but I think its an insult to all involved that after 25 years or so a man like him can even entertain the thought of being released. That’s the conversation we should be having about our justice system. That is where we can improve.