NCPA urges Capital Punishment - a point of view
punishment; everyone fears death, just as you do. Therefore you do not
kill or cause to be killed." -
I was surprised and dismayed to read in your paper on September 9
that the Chairperson of the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA)
Anoma Dissanayake is planning to make a proposal to the government to
enact laws to impose capital punishment for child abuse.
While I totally agree with her that the NCPA's objective is to
minimise instances of child abuse, that laws would be enacted to
strengthen the activities of the NCPA, and also prompt action was
necessary as over 4,000 complaints of child abuse had been received by
the NCPA during the past year alone, I regret her plans to request
imposing capital punishment for those found guilty of child abuse.
Although the death penalty is in our statute books, we have not
implemented it since 1976. Presidents J. R. Jayewardene, Ranasinghe
Premadasa, D. B. Wijethunga, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and
Mahinda Rajapaksa quite correctly did not implement the death penalty.
Of the 193 countries of the world, 95 have abolished the death
penalty for all offences. 49 countries retain the death penalty, though
not used for at least 10 years.
Eight countries have abolished it for all offences except under
special circumstances and only 41 countries retain the death penalty.
The objectives of a punishment for an offence are rehabilitation,
retribution and deterrent. By executing a person all doors for
rehabilitation are permanently and totally closed. There is no
statistical or other evidence to prove that Capital Punishment or the
fear of it, is effective in deterring crime.
For example, Canada abolished the death penalty in 1976. The House of
Commons passed a Bill abolishing Capital Punishment from the Canadian
Criminal Code and replacing it with a mandatory life sentence without
possibility of parole for 25 years for all first-degree murders.
Contrary to predictions by death penalty supporters, the homicide
rate in Canada did not increase after abolition in 1976. In fact, the
Canadian murder rate declined slightly the following year, from 2.8 per
100,000 to 2.7! Over the next 20 years, the homicide rate fluctuated
between 2.2 and 2.8 per 100,000 population, but the general trend was
The judicial verdicts are not always correct. The verdict is a result
of the evidence presented and therefore if the evidence is false the
verdict is flawed.
We see that some accused convicted of crime are freed by the appeal
court, because the original judgement was wrong.
Since 1973, more than 130 people have been released from death rows
throughout the US, due to evidence of their wrongful convictions. If
that could happen in the US, how do we know how many people are charged
for crimes and murders they have never committed, and then convicted in
Some innocent people have been executed due to wrong verdicts.
Inadequate and unsatisfactory legal representations, police and
prosecutor inefficiency/misconduct, political pressure to solve a case,
false evidence and misinterpretation of evidence, etc. can lead to
innocent persons being convicted.
To reduce crime, we need resources and facilities for efficient and
quick Police investigations, improved and modern facilities for
scientific work, fast track judicial system for crimes like murder,
sexual offences and child abuse, and a uniform and deterrent sentencing
policy. A life imprisonment for a serious crime is a severe punishment.
The agony of the convicted for decades spent in prison is an adequate
punishment for any crime.
We certainly do not need the death penalty. It is a cruel, inhuman
and degrading punishment. It will not reduce the incidence of child
Professor Ravindra Fernando
Senior Professor of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, University of