27 APRIL 1951, Page 5

I have been reading Lord Templewood's book on capital punishment,

The Shadow of the Gallows. which was reviewed in this journal last week. I am not sure that the most effective passage in the book is not that devoted to the reproduction of an official description of a murderer's last moments. laid by the Home Office before the Royal Commission on Capital Punish- ment now sitting.

" On a signal given by the Sheriff," it reads, " they [two prison officers] enter the execution chamber and the execu- tioner pinions the prisoner's arms behind his back. He is escorted to the drop with one officer on either side. The Sheriff, Governor and Medical Officer enter the execution chamber directly by another door. The prisoner is placed on the drop on a marked spot, so that his feet are directly across the division of the trap-doors. The Executioner places a white cap over the prisoner's head and places the noose round his neck while the assistant pinions his legs. When the Executioner sees that all is ready he pulls the lever. The Medical Officer at once proceeds to the pit and examines the prisoner to sec that life is extinct. The shed is then locked and the body hangs for one hour."

For the public everything is blank between the passing of sentence by the Judge and the bare notice of death a fortgight or more later. It is as well, no matter what views we hold on capital punishment, to know something of what blank covers.