How not to spend Mothers Day?
How to spend Mothers’ Day? Breakfast in bed for your wife, lovingly attended to by your own little ones, or lunch out for your own Mum? Not big questions and certainly not as big as those posed by the big BBC 1 programme, The Big Questions, which led me to leave my wife, cards hurriedly opened and (big box of) chocolates hastily delivered by our three-year-old twin son and daughter, at 7.30am for a live TV debate.
The question the Nicky Campbell-hosted show asked: “Do some criminals deserve the death penalty?"
I argued that the death penalty is never acceptable, that everyone enjoys human rights such as the right to life, and that the state should not descend to the level of murderers by deliberately taking lives. But it was difficult to put forward many of the other arguments against capital punishment as the debate never moved far away from impassioned calls for retribution that accompany discussion of shocking cases such as that of Josef Fritzl.
I realised that this was likely to be the case when I found myself sitting next to the father of Sally Ann Bowman, the 18-year-old murdered and sexually attacked by Mark Dixie, who was convicted last month.
Thinking about my own two children back at home, I could understand why Mr Bowman wanted Dixie dead. But I’d like to think that I’d never make such a call.
There are lots of practical reasons for opposing the death penalty, as well as those of principle, and one of these was presented yesterday. Paddy Hill, one of the Birmingham Six was a fellow guest, along with solicitor Julian Young, who helped secure the freedom of another man on the receiving end of a spectacular miscarriage of justice. As we waited to go through to the studio – those opposing and those supporting the death penalty kept separate lest we had our fight out of the gaze of the cameras– Mr Young called his client to tell him to watch BBC1. Since leaving prison Sean Hodgson has acquired his first ever mobile phone – they scarcely existed before he was sent down.
Midway through the debate someone said that both Paddy and Sean would be dead if we’d had the death penalty. True, but, shockingly, those who clamour to see the baddest of the bad executed, don’t seem to worry too much about the innocents who would, even in these days of DNA testing, meet their untimely end in the process.
Soon we were on to the second question of the morning – “Is it unethical to have more than two children?” I sat that one out and waited patiently for the moment when I’d be able to head home to my (ethically-sized) family.
Check out tomorrow’s blog, when Amnesty announces its annual round-up of death penalty statistics. The debate, no doubt, will continue.
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.