Lord Tebbit has called for the re-introduction of the death penalty following killing of two police officers in Greater Manchester (Reuters)
Lord Tebbit has called for the re-introduction of the death penalty following killing of two police officers in Greater Manchester (Reuters)

The death penalty should be reintroduced for those who kill police officers, a former Tory minister has argued.

Former Conservative Party chairman Lord Norman Tebbit, who served in Margaret Thatcher's cabinet between 1981 and 1987, said he was reluctant to advocate the routine arming of police officers, but raised the prospect of capital punishment "for limited categories of murder, such as that of a police officer."

Writing a day after the shooting of two unarmed police officers in Greater Manchester, Tebbit said it is time Britain thought again about the "deterrent effect of the shadow of the gallows".

Capital punishment was formally abolished in Britain in 1969, with the last person hanged in 1964. The last person to be executed for killing a police officer was Guenther Podola in 1959.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Tebbit said: "The hard fact is, as violent criminals know perfectly well, a credible threat that a man will lose his life unless he complies with a demand usually results in obedience.

"There have been far too many killings of late where it is all but impossible not wonder if, as a disgusting member of a gang of thugs pulled back his foot to kick in the head of some innocent passer-by who had been felled to the ground, he knew that the penalty for that kick would come at the end of the early dawn walk to the gallows, that kick would be delivered.

Tebbit also argued that bringing in the death penalty would amean juries took more care in their deliberations, knowing a person's life was at stake.

He said: "The arguments against capital punishment for murder have always been thin. One centres on the human rights theory which demands that the state should never take life.

"I have kept track year by year since the death penalty was suspended, then abolished, of the number of people who have been killed by persons previously convicted of homicide.

"It has averaged three people a year. About 150 people killed because their killers have been freed to kill again.

"Would our courts have sentenced to death three innocent people a year, year in year out? I doubt it.

"I think it is time we thought again about the deterrent effect of the shadow of the gallows."

The view to bring back the death penalty for people who kill police was shared by Tory MP Nick de Bois.

De Bois, a member of the Commons Justice Select Committee, said:

"It's important not to make policy in the immediate aftermath of this tragedy, however police officers potentially put their lives on the line every day and therefore someone who murders a police officer should face the most severe of punishments.

"Whether that is a life sentence without the possibility of release, or the death penalty, is something that I believe Parliament should debate as there is a massive public interest in this. The fact is that these killers don't fear the law; and they need to."