@ David Wilson
In terms of per population, 1921 appears our safest year with only 1.8 total crimes against the person per 100,000 population; by 1951 this figure was up to 20.68 per 100,000 and by 1961 it had nearly doubled to 40.82 (the 2001 figure is 1,065.85 per 100,000).
Capital punishment was but one factor—but it *was* a factor. As well, judicial corporal punishment existed, stern and disciplined prisons, and police officers pounded beats—sufficiently plentiful that, in towns, beating truncheons against walls could alert fellow officers on neighbouring beats. Corporal punishment was routine in schools, welfare was limited and did not reward failure or criminality; and Peel’s 7th Principle, that ‘the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence’ was not an empty slogan—the public were legally obliged to enforce the law: ‘[A]ny private person who is present when any felony is committed, is bound by law to arrest the felon, on pain of fine and imprisonment if he negligently permit him to escape’ (A.V. Dicey, ‘Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution’, Appendix IV). However, liberals do not argue for any of the latter measures but oppose each one.
One should note there are numbers now ‘getting away’ with manslaughter: e.g. Gareth Rees, who subjected 3 year old Courtney Crockett to sustained abuse, eventually culminating in her death (the pathologist cataloguing more than 100 injuries), was sentenced to 10 years (automatic release after two-thirds served); in saner times and prior to the Homicide Act 1957, Rees would undoubtedly have been charged with murder and hanged.
It is true that we used to exercise considerable mercy in our application of capital punishment (too merciful perhaps). Even so, I do not see any grounds for clemency that might have saved Shaun Clarke from the rope for strangling Patricia Sykes in 1988; and if he had hanged then, Donna Wilson, a 30 year old care worker, would still be alive now.