22 MAY 1964, Page 16


SIR,—Mr. Howard's splenetic outburst'is singularly unhelpful. He suggests that 'progressives' (why the inverted commas, Mr. Howard?) unjustifiably quote 'public opinion' (ditto) as being of their own per- suasion. He himself then falls into the same trap by asserting that the Homicide Act is 'generally recog- nised as being a farcical compromise to placate aboli- tionist cranks.' How very interesting. I know quite a lot of people who regard it as an absurd attempt to placate retcntionist bigots.

After all, the House of Commons, on a free vote, has demanded the abolition of capital punishment. There' is no evidence to support the view that the death penalty is a uniqUe deterrent. The experience of other countries is that abolition has no perceptible effect on the murder rate./In this country, the num- ber of murders annually known to the police has remained more or less constant since the 1930s. Taking into account the rise in population, the murder rate was exactly the same in 1961 as it was during the 1930s. During the same period, the num- ber of indictable offences per million of the popu- lation trebled.

Nobody denies that the increase in crime is alarm- ing. Nobody denies that there may be legitimate dis- agreement as to the methods which should be used to combat it. But to lay the blame at the door of 'abolitionist cranks' is, in the light of the evidence, ridiculous.

M. .I. G. cox

The Priory, Church Street, Rick mansworth, Hertfordshire