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Capital Punishment


Imagine that with the community facing an unprecedented increase in violent crime, ‘law and order’" becomes the key issue of the Victorian state election. Both government and opposition promise to get tough. The state's Attorney General proposes a Bill, calling for the reintroduction of capital punishment.

The proposed Bill appears to have widespread support, with talkback radio and the public opinion pages of newspapers overwhelmed by members of the public voicing their approval. Aware of the sensitive nature of the Bill, both the Premier and the Leader of the Opposition allow for a 'conscience vote'.

Imagine further that you are James, the Member for an outer Melbourne electorate, one of the areas hardest hit by the upsurge in violent crime. Memories are still vivid, and emotions high, regarding a particularly brutal crime in which a young nurse was raped and beaten, before being left to die. The dead girl's father, Bob, has been a tireless campaigner for victim support groups, and an advocate for the reintroduction of the death penalty. Bob contacts James, urging him to support the Bill.

Despite assurances that it will be a 'conscience vote', James has also received considerable pressure from fellow parliamentarians. He feels that subtle hints are being made about the future of his career. James is a Catholic. In the days before the parliamentary debate and 'conscience vote', he meets with his parish priest, Fr Mulrooney, to discuss the Church's view.

Although James is determined to evaluate rationally the arguments for and against capital punishment, he is haunted by the prospect that the reintroduction of capital punishment may, at some stage, condemn innocent persons to death. At the same time he sympathises with Bob and other families who have been victims of violent crime.

After eight days of parliamentary debate, James must cast his vote in response to the Capital Punishment Bill. Knowing that, whatever the outcome, there will be hurt, anger and anguish, James casts his vote. Which way?

The following scenario allows you to explore the viewpoints of a range of different people.

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