Furore as Priti Patel urges return of death penalty

Sep 23, 2011
Rachel Helyer-Donaldson

Tory star slated on Twitter after saying it’s a deterrent even if innocent people get executed

TORY MP Priti Patel, one of her party's rising stars, found herself at the centre of a Twitter furore last night after she told a BBC Question Time audience that the death penalty could still act as a deterrent even if it means innocent people occasionally get executed.

Patel, a long-time supporter of capital punishment, made her comments in a heated debate about the controversial execution of Troy Davis in the United States this week.
The 39-year-old MP, who was placed on David Cameron's infamous 'A-list' of election candidates, was still a trending topic this morning after she responded "Yes" to the question "Does capital punishment have a role in civilised society?"

Patel then clashed with fellow panelist Ian Hislop, the editor of Private Eye, over innocent people losing their lives. Patel argued that the debate was not about miscarriages of justice but about the criminal justice system and a snippy exchange followed:

Presenter David Dimbleby: "Are you saying these were guilty - all these people?"
Patel: "I'm not saying they are guilty. This is about having deterrents, if you have strong deterrents..."
Hislop: "It's not a deterrent, killing the wrong people."

Patel's comments caused particular outrage in the wake of the execution of Davis, who was killed by lethal injection in Georgia on Wednesday despite a mass of evidence that his 1991 conviction for killing a Savannah policeman was questionable.
On Twitter, the reaction was swift. "Her comments on capital punishment exposed Priti Patel as a muddle-headed fool" said Bloke_On_A_Bike while MattMaloneMD claimed that "Priti Patel MP just executed her own career by calling for the reinstatement of the death penalty in the UK".  ET_Reville, clearly a Curb Your Enthusiasm fan, quipped: "Priti Patel [is] prettay prettay prettay annoying".
Patel will no doubt be glad to hear the latest news from Texas, another state with the death penalty, where 'last meal' requests from Death Row convicts are to be banned in future.

This follows an eve-of-execution request from the white supremacist Lawrence Russell Brewer for a triple-meat bacon cheeseburger, two chicken fried steaks, fried okra, a pound of barbecue, three fajitas, a meat lover's pizza, a pint of ice cream and a slab of peanut butter fudge with crushed peanuts. Brewer then failed to eat any of it.
"It is extremely inappropriate to give a person sentenced to death such a privilege," Senator John Whitmire, chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, wrote to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. "We're fixing to execute the guy and maybe it makes the system feel good about what they're fixing to do. Kind of hypocritical, you reckon?"

Brad Livingston, the department's director, agreed. "Effective immediately, no such accommodations will be made," said Livingston. "They will receive the same meal served to other offenders on the unit."

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