68 Pro Death Penalty Quotes by Judges

There is as much moral cowardice in shrinking from the execution of a murderer as there is in hesitating to blow out the brains of a foreign invader.

"Some men, probably, abstain from murder because they fear that if they committed murder they would be hanged. Hundreds of thousands abstain from it because they regard it with horror. One great reason why they regard it with horror is that murderers are hanged."

Sir James Fitzjames Stephen, a great Jurist, who was concerned with the drafting of I.P.C. (Indian Penal Code) is very important to mention - “No other punishment deters man so effectually from committing crimes as the punishment of death. This is one of those propositions which is difficult to prove simply because they are in themselves more obvious than any proof can make them. In any secondary punishment, however terrible, there is hope, but death is death, its terrors cannot be described more forcibly.” These views are very strong answers to the people who oppose death punishment with the arguments that it does not serve penological purpose.

Sir James Fitzjames Stephen, 1st Baronet (3 March 1829 - 11 March 1894) was an English lawyer, judge and writer. He was created 1st Baronet Stephen by Queen Victoria.

Our sovereignty has been taken away by the European Court of Justice...Our courts must no longer enforce our national laws. They must enforce Community law...No longer is European law an incoming tide flowing up the estuaries of England. It is now like a tidal wave bringing down our sea walls and flowing inland over our fields and houses—to the dismay of all. [Introduction to The European Court of Justice: Judges or Policy Makers? (London: Bruges Group, 1990)]

Alfred Thompson "Tom" Denning Baron Denning, OM, PC, DL (23 January 1899 – 5 March 1999), commonly known as Lord Denning, was a British soldier, mathematician, lawyer and judge.

“If our criminal law is to be respected, the public conscience has to be satisfied, and it will not be satisfied if gross violence, and sometimes bestial crime, is not punished in a way that will satisfy the public. There are old people who go trembling to their doors at night.”

“They are sentenced because it is society’s method of showing that if that conduct or those acts are persisted in certain consequences which must be unpleasant and must be punitive will result. I have never yet understood how you can make the criminal law a deterrent unless it is also punitive. The two things seem to me to follow one on the other.” [Speech in the House of Lords, 28 April 1948] 

“There is one other consideration which I believe should never be overlooked. If the criminal law of this country is to be respected, it must be in accordance with public opinion, and public opinion must support it. That goes very nearly to the root of this question of capital punishment. I cannot believe or the public opinion (or would I rather call it the public conscience) of this country will tolerate that persons who deliberately condemn others to painful and, it may be, lingering deaths should be allow to live…” [Speech in the House of Lords, 28 April 1948] 

“I know that in uttering this sentiment I shall not have the sympathies of everyone but, in my humble opinion, I believe that there are many, many cases where the murderer should be destroyed.” [Speech in the House of Lords, 28 April 1948]
“The supreme crime should carry the supreme penalty.” [Speech in the House of Lords, 10 July 1956]
“My sentiments are more in favour of the victim than they are of the murderer. There is a tendency nowadays when any matter of criminal law is discussed to think far more of the criminal than his victim.” [Speech in the House of Lords, 10 July 1956]
“Is this the time to remove what rightly or wrongly the police and prison service believe to be their main protection against attack? We have to remember that our police are armed with a short baton, the only weapon they have against these gunmen and other people who do not hesitate to shoot and take the lives of policemen. If this (Death Penalty Abolition) bill passes I am sure it will encourage resignation from the police forces and make recruitment more difficult.” [Speech in the House of Lords, 10 July 1956]

Lord Goddard recalled a brutal assault on a wife in which the accused said, “If it was not that I would swing for you, I would do you in.”

He went on, “That is the sort of thing the death penalty prevents. I do not want to joke in this matter, but would be the effect on such people if they knew that they would be sent to a sanatorium or some other comfortable place if they committed murder?” [Speech in the House of Lords, 10 July 1956]
“I believe the fear of the rope, as it is generally called among certain classes, is a very great deterrent.” [Speech in the House of Lords, 10 July 1956]
“If this bill passed, judges will not be able to give any greater punishment for deliberate murder than they can give now for burglary, for breaking into a church (sacrilege), or for forging a will.” [Speech in the House of Lords, 10 July 1956]
The Lord Chief Justice recalled the case when a bandit caught after a chase in London fired low at a young constable. “He fired low because he knew what the consequences would be if he murdered the policeman. When he was arrested his first question was, ‘Is the copper dead?’ That is what he was afraid of…These instances make me say with all the earnestness I can command: do not gamble with the lives of the police.” [Speech in the House of Lords, 10 July 1956]
“Are these people to be kept alive?” [Speech in the House of Lords, 10 July 1956]
“I should shrink from the very idea of saying that the sentence of murder should be life imprisonment in the full sense.” [Speech in the House of Lords, 10 July 1956]
“Your lordships can be assured that the only people hung are those guilty of cruel, deliberate murder without mitigation…I put my views strongly because from experience, one gets to feel strong views in these matters and should not be afraid to express them. When a man deliberately murders another he is committing the supreme crime, and should pay the supreme penalty.” [Speech in the House of Lords, 10 July 1956]
Rayner Goddard, Baron Goddard (10 April 1877 - 29 May 1971) was Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales from 1946 to 1958 and known for his strict sentencing and conservative views. He was nicknamed the 'Tiger' and "Justice-in-a-jiffy" for his no-nonsense manner. He once dismissed six appeals in one hour in 1957.

Law is the safest helmet; under the shield of the law no one is deceived.

The King himself should be under no man, but under God and the Law.

Those who consent to the act and those who do it shall be equally punished.  

The intention ought to be subservient to the laws, not the laws to the intention.

Sir Edward Coke (pronounced "Cook") (1 February 1552 – 3 September 1634) was a seventeenth-century English jurist and Member of Parliament whose writings on the common law were the definitive legal texts for nearly 150 years. Born into a family of minor Norfolk gentry, Coke travelled to London as a young man to make his living as a barrister. There he rapidly gained prominence as one of the leading attorneys of his time, eventually being appointed Solicitor General and then Attorney General by Queen Elizabeth. As Attorney General, Coke famously prosecuted Sir Walter Raleigh and the Gunpowder Plot conspirators for treason. In 1606, Coke was made Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas, later being elevated, in 1613, to Lord Chief Justice of England. As a judge, Coke delivered numerous important decisions, and he gained a reputation as the greatest jurist of his age. Nonetheless, his unwillingness to compromise in the face of challenges to the supremacy of the common law made him increasingly unpopular with James I, and he was eventually removed as Lord Chief Justice in 1616. Despite his dismissal from the bench and his already advanced age, Coke remained an influential political figure, leading parliamentary opposition to the Crown in the 1620s. His career in parliament culminated in 1628 when he acted as one of the primary authors of the Petition of Right. This document defined the rights of Englishmen and prevented the Crown from infringing them. Coke's enduring fame and importance rests principally on his immensely influential legal writings and on his staunch defence of the rule of law in the face of royal absolutism. His legal texts formed the basis for the modern common law, with lawyers in both England and America learning their law from his Institutes and Reports until the end of the eighteenth century. As a judge and Member of Parliament, Coke supported individual liberty against arbitrary government and sought to ensure that the king's authority was circumscribed by law. In later times, both English reformers and American Patriots, such as John Lilburne, James Otis, and John Adams, used Coke's writings to support their conceptions of inviolable civil liberties.

A society which felt neither anger nor indignation at outrageous conduct would hardly enjoy an effective system of law.

Sir John William Salmond, KC (3 December 1862 - 19 September 1924) was a legal scholar, public servant and judge in New Zealand. Salmond was born in North Shields, Northumberland, England, in 1862, the eldest son of William Salmond (d. 1917), a Presbyterian minister and professor. His family emigrated to Dunedin, New Zealand, in 1876 where he attended Otago Boys' High School (1876–79). Salmond graduated from the University of Otago in 1882 with a B.A. degree and later an M.A. He then obtained a Gilchrist scholarship to study at University College, London, where he graduated in law and became a fellow. Returning to New Zealand in 1887, he was admitted as a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court, and practised in Temuka in the South Island. In 1897 he was appointed professor of law at the University of Adelaide, South Australia, and in 1906 he returned to New Zealand to take up the founding chair in law at Victoria University College, Wellington. In 1907 Salmond was appointed as Counsel to the Law Drafting Office where he remained for four years, until his appointment in 1911 as Solicitor-General. He was made a King's Counsel in 1912, knighted in 1918 and appointed a judge of the Supreme Court of New Zealand (now known as the High Court) in 1920. Salmond represented New Zealand at the Washington Naval Conference from November 1921 to February 1922. Upon his return to New Zealand he resumed his judicial duties but died, following a heart attack, in Wellington on 19 September 1924. Salmond married Anne Bryham Guthrie (1861?-1941), daughter of James Guthrie of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England, in 1891 in Dunedin. They had two sons and a daughter, of whom the eldest, Capt. William Guthrie Salmond, was killed in action in France in July 1918. The Law Library at the University of Adelaide Law School is named in his honor.

“Murder is the unlawful killing or causing death of one human being by another human being with the intention of doing so. An accidental killing or causing of death is not murder because, in such a case, the intention to cause death was absent. The intention to kill, therefore, is of the essence of the offence.”

“It is more than ever essential in this present day and age that the rule of law should be preserved inviolate: that those who respect and obey it shall live in freedom and security under it; that those who flout it and seek to set it at nought shall be brought to book and punished.”

“You have been told that it was better that 10 guilty men should go free rather than one innocent man should be convicted. Of course it would be better, but that is not good enough. That such a situation should be allowed to exist and to grow and to develop in stature would, in my opinion, constitute a grave reflection on the administration of the criminal jurisprudence of any civilized country. It is, gentlemen of the jury, more than ever necessary in this present day and age that the rule of law should be proclaimed aloud for all to hear: that those who offend against it shall be punished; and those who observe and obey it shall be allowed to live in freedom and security under it.”

“Each of you has been convicted of the murder of Dutton and his two assistants. The evidence was established that these murders were committed in circumstances of such utter brutality, ruthlessness and savagery as defies description…The time has now come for you to pay the penalty for your dreadful acts. If ever the punishment fitted the crime, this case may be said with fairness and, I think propriety, to provide the outstanding instance. The sentence of the Court upon you is that you will be taken from this place to a lawful prison and taken to a place to be hanged by the neck until you are dead. And may the Lord have mercy on your soul.” [Pulau Senang was a penal experiment where prisoners were allowed to roam freely on the island. It was thought that detainees could be reformed through manual labour. The settlement started on 18 May 1960, when 50 detainees arrived with Superintendent Daniel Dutton. Over the next three years, the number of detainees rose to 320, and they transformed the island into an attractive settlement. Believing that through hard work, the detainees could be reformed. Dutton removed arms from the guards. On 12 July 1963, a group of some 70 to 90 detainees rioted and burned down most of the buildings. They hacked Dutton to death and killed two other officers. 58 people were accused of rioting and murdering Dutton and officers Arumugan Veerasingham and Tan Kok Hian. Because of the large number of the accused, a special dock had to be constructed for them. The case went to trial on 18 November and lasted an unprecedented 64 days. On 12 March 1964, the seven-member jury found 18 of the accused guilty of murder, 18 guilty of rioting with deadly weapons and 11 guilty of rioting. The remaining 11 accused were acquitted. Those found guilty of murder were sentenced to death, while those found guilty of rioting with deadly weapons were sentenced to three years of imprisonment; the rest to two years of imprisonment. Most of those involved in the rioting were members of secret societies who were detained without trial and had no hope of leaving the island. As a result of the riots, the penal experiment came to an abrupt end.]

Murray Buttrose was a High court judge in The Supreme Court of the Republic of Singapore from 24 December 1956 to 30 July 1968, he retired and went to live in England. He was born in Australia and was the last of the British expatriate judges to serve in Singapore, where he had worked in the legal profession for 23 years.

“There are cases where mercy and humanity to the few would be injustice and cruelty to the many.”

Edward Law, 1st Baron Ellenborough PC KC (16 November 1750 – 13 December 1818) was an English judge. After serving as a Member of Parliament and Attorney General, he became Lord Chief Justice.

The head of the criminal division in the High Court of Uganda, Justice Lameck Mukasa, has said the number of offences attracting a death penalty should be reduced.

“My personal view is that the death sentence should be reserved for cases of murder and other cases where death results from the commission of the crime,” Mukasa said.

He was speaking during a function to mark the World Day Against the Death Penalty, organised by the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative at Nsambya on Wednesday 10 October 2012.

Justice Lameck Mukasa is the head of the criminal division in the High Court of Uganda.

Tuesday 27 March 2012 in Abuja — THE Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Dahiru Musdapher, and Attorney General of the Federation AGF), Mohammed Adoke, has taken different positions over retention or abolition of death penalty in the country.

While the CJN disagreed on the abolition of death penalty, saying it must be retained in the constitution, in spite of mounting pressure against it, the AGF was undecided, saying he could not say whether it is good or bad.

The number-one Nigerian judge stressed that in a constitutional democracy, neither the legislature nor the judiciary is supreme over the constitution, adding that unless the National Assembly amends the law, there is nothing anybody can do about it.

Justice Musdapher stated this yesterday in Abuja at a one-day programme organised by an NGO, Lawyers Without Borders based in France, which canvassed for the abolition of death penalty in Nigeria.

Musdapher, who was represented by Special Assistant, Hadiza Sontali Sa'eed, held that it is not the responsibility of the judiciary to abolish death sentence in Nigerian laws, but the work of the legislature.

'The constitution specifically provides for death penalty in section 33.1 that every person has a right to life, and no one shall be deprived intentionally of his life, save in execution of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty in Nigeria,' he said.

He noted that the Supreme Court had in a plethora of cases, upheld the constitutionality of death sentence in Nigeria “When a constitution is adopted, the judiciary is obliged to uphold its provisions. The task of the court is to protect the provisions of the constitution and ensure that the legislature fulfill its obligation”.

Dahiru Musdapher (born on 15 July 1942 in Babura Town, Jigawa State, Nigeria) is the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, appointed in 2011. He previously served as Chief Judge of the Kano State Judiciary from 1979 to 1985, and as a member of the Court of Appeal from 1985 until 2003. He is presently the acting Chief Justice of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Justice, when equal scales she holds, is blind; nor cruelty, nor mercy, change her mind; when some escape for that which others die, mercy to those to these is cruelty.

Sir John Denham (died 1639) was an English judge, remembered as one of the " Ship-money judges " and as father of the poet Sir John Denham. He was a Londoner and is first heard of as a student in 1577.He was called to the Bar in 1587 and became a bencher of Lincoln's Inn in 1603. In 1609 he was knighted and sent to Ireland as Chief Baron of the Irish Exchequer;in 1612 he was appointed Lord Chief Justice of the King's Bench for Ireland. He was clearly regarded as an important agent of the English policy of extending English law to the whole of Ireland; despite complaints of ill-health he was almost constantly travelling on assize .He was also a Commissioner for the Plantation of Ulster. He was credited with greatly increasing the Irish revenues and was praised by Francis Bacon for hard work and prudence as a judge in Ireland. Even after his return to England he advised the Crown on Irish affairs. In 1617 Denham returned to England as a Baron of the Exchequer. As such he was one of the judges of the celebrated Case of Ship Money, Rex v. John Hampden, on the prerogative of the King to levy the tax on his simple assertion that a need for it existed. When King Charles I consulted the High Court judges on his power to levy ship money, Denham was one of the ten who advised that it was the King's sole prerogative to determine whether the national good required the imposition of the tax. By the time the case of John Hampden was heard by the Court of Exchequer in 1637 however Denham appears to have been increasingly doubtful about the legality of ship money; indeed it was due to Denham's doubts that the Lord Chief Baron, Sir Humphrey Davenport, decided to remove the case to the Court of Exchequer Chamber, for a hearing by twelve rather than four judges. When the twelve came to give judgment, Denham was one of the five who voted in favour of Hampden; although so ill " of my old disease" that he could not leave home, he sent in a short opinion that " the King's Majesty.. can neither take any lands or goods of any of his subjects but only upon a judgment on record." "Had he lived longer his opinion would no doubt have saved him from being impeached, as most of his fellow judges were; in the event he died at his home at Egham, Suffolk, the following year. Denham married firstly Cicely Kellefet, then Eleanor Moore, daughter of Garrett Moore, 1st Viscount Moore of Drogheda. He and Eleanor had one son, the celebrated poet Sir John Denham.

Lord Kilmuir opposed Sidney Silverman's 1956 private member's bill to abolish capital punishment. He described it as "an unwise and dangerous measure, the presence of which on the statute book would be a disaster for the country and a menace to the people". 

Sir David Maxwell Fyfe A.K.A David Patrick Maxwell Fyfe, 1st Earl of Kilmuir GCVO, PC, KC, (29 May 1900 – 27 January 1967), known as Sir David Maxwell Fyfe from 1942 to 1954 and as The Viscount Kilmuir from 1954 to 1962, was a British Conservative politician, lawyer and judge who combined an industrious and precocious legal career with political ambitions that took him to the offices of Solicitor General, Attorney General, Home Secretary and Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain.

“The murder of a person is as illegal from the point of view of shariah (Islamic law) as it is in Sudanese criminal law,” the judge, Sayed Ahmed al-Badri, said when announcing the sentence of the four men who murdered John Granville and the driver.


“Islamic law condemns murder, regardless of the nationality or religion (of the victim.”

Judge Sayed Ahmed al-Badri A Sudanese Judge

In Warner’s corner is justice minister and former high court judge Herbert Volney who would like to see capital punishment become a spectacle for the public to witness, as was the case in the colonial and slave eras.

“Persons should be hanged in Woodford Square (downtown) at 6:00 or 7:00 in the morning. The people should see the hangings take place. They need to feel the fear of God and have fear for the law. I am not opposed in principle to hanging persons, but it has to be in respect to brutal and heinous crimes,” Volney said.

Herbert Volney is the current justice minister and former high court judge of Trinidad and Tobago. Mr. Herbert Philip Volney was first elected to the House of Representatives on Monday May 24, 2010 as a Member of the People's Partnership coalition. He was appointed Minister of Justice on May 28, 2010. Mr. Volney was born to the late Cyril and Rosalind Volney on June 8, 1953 at Plymouth on the Caribbean isle of Montserrat. He was born without roots in Montserrat as his father was St Lucian and his mother Dominican. He is the third of eight children. Mr. Volney was educated at catholic primary schools in Antigua, Barbados, St. Kitts and Dominica. He attended St Mary’s Academy in Dominica and qualified for admission to the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies. After graduating in 1976 with a Bachelor of Law degree, Mr. Volney was admitted to the Hugh Wooding Law School and was called to the Bar of Trinidad and Tobago as a barrister in 1978. In 1979, he was recruited by then Attorney General Selwyn Richardson to work in the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions where he served for ten years. He retired as Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions. He worked in the law chambers of Karl Hudson-Phillips QC, a former Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago until opening his own private law office in 1991. In 1994 he was recruited by Chief Justice Clinton Bernard and appointed a judge of the Supreme Court. By the time of his retirement to stand for the constituency of St Joseph in the General Elections of 2010, he had presided in over 400 trials at the higher level and had worked extensively in the Port of Spain, San Fernando and Scarborough sittings of the Criminal Assizes. Herbert Volney’s passion is for justice and public affairs. His concerns are for poverty alleviation and the plight of retirees. He is a sporting man who has actively played cricket, basketball, football, and tennis. Mr. Volney was the Head boy of his alma mater and President of the Guild of Undergraduates at Cave Hill Campus. He is married and a father of five.

Sunday 18 November 2012 - Yet the lack of legal aid is no reason to stop executions, according to Justice Geri Raymondo Legge, president of Lake State’s Appeal Court. During a previous appointment in Wao, he oversaw 17 executions in 14 months.

“In the absence of a lawyer I am the advocate of the accused,” he says. “I am advocate for the plaintiff, the defendant and judge. It is not a perfect system.”

Still, he adds, South Sudan needed the death penalty because its people were inclined to violence.

“If you remove the death penalty your life is in danger. Our people are aggressive. The purpose of this is a deterrent to stop them killing.”

Geri Raymond Legge is the President of Lake State's Appeal Court in South Sudan.

“Let us have no remarks, but a fair trial, in God’s name.” – rebuking William Williams who defended Algernon Sidney.

George Jeffreys, 1st Baron Jeffreys of Wem, PC (15 May 1645 – 18 April 1689), also known as "The Hanging Judge", was an English judge. He became notable during the reign of King James II, rising to the position of Lord Chancellor (and serving as Lord High Steward in certain instances).
“Only a referendum can abolish capital punishment in Belarus, this is written in the Constitution. Please be reminded that more than 80 per cent of the Belarusians voted for retention of capital punishment at referendum in 2004.”
Pyotr Miklashevich is the presiding judge and chairman of the Constitutional Court of Belarus. He was appointed Prosecutor General on 28 November 2004 by President Aleksandr Lukashenko before becoming the chairman of the Constitutional Court of Belarus.

Monday 25 July 2011 - Quoting a book, Kenya's Justice David Musinga said an opinion poll showed 75 per cent of Ugandans wanted the retention of the death sentence and the same case applied to Kenya.

“Our MPs would want to side by the wishes of the general populace. Unless the message (repeal of death penalty) is taken across the countryside, it looks it’s not possible to achieve it here,” Mr Justice Musinga said.

David Musinga is the High Court judge of Kenya.

Speaking to The Irish Times , the judge said: “The Government should look at it. Then if the people want it they should have it.”

“I am not totally in favour of it. But it should be revisited,” the former judge said. “It would have to be for specific offences. If people arm up and go out to rob and decide to take out anyone who gets in their way, they should pay the price. It should be a matter for each individual case.”