Essay by nholdingUniversity, Bachelor'sA-, March 2005

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Capital punishment is a volatile issue and one, which requires careful analysis. Popularity towards the death penalty by the majority of Australian people does not necessarily mean that the government of the time should automatically reintroduce this form of sentencing. Many people, both opponents and proponents, fail to understand the many issues involved and therefore have ill informed opinions. The consequences of capital punishment are both detailed and complex. Careful consideration to issues including the timing of public opinion polls, the effects of capital punishment on crime rates, sentencing differences, morality, rehabilitation and deterrence all need to be carefully considered before a final decision is addressed by the parliament.


The term capital comes from the Indo-European kaput, meaning "head", through the Latin capitalis. Thus, capital punishment is the penalty for a crime so severe that it deserves decapitation (losing one's head). Capital punishment, also referred to as the death penalty, is the judicially ordered execution of a prisoner as a punishment for a serious crime, often called a capital offence or a capital crime.

Some Middle East countries still practise decapitation for certain offences, but more common forms of the death penalty include electrocution, gas, firing squad, lethal injection and hanging. In those jurisdictions that practice capital punishment, its use is usually restricted to a small number of criminal offences; principally, murder, that is, the deliberate premeditated killing of another person.

History of Capital Punishment in Australia

In the nineteenth century 1 520 people were hanged for crimes including burglary, sheep stealing, forgery, sexual assault, murder and manslaughter. Since Federation (1901), only 114 persons have been legally executed in Australia. Australia, in common with most Western countries has abolished capital punishment. Yet debate on this topic has not ablated. The last person to be executed in Australia was Ronald...