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World Day Against the Death Penalty

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 6th November 2019.

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Photo of Gil Paterson Gil Paterson Scottish National Party

I thank Bill Kidd for this important debate. The notion that someone who has taken a life deserves the loss of their own life might seem to be a fair balance of justice. However, over my lifetime—from the time of capital punishment to there being no death penalty for murder—I have witnessed miscarriages of justice that have proved to be the opposite of quid pro quo.

One of the most harrowing cases that shatters the myth of fair justice is that of Stefan Kiszko, who was arrested and found guilty of the rape and murder of a 12-year-old child. Mr Kiszko was 23 when that crime was carried out. I well remember the case and the fact that, like many other people, I was mighty relieved that the courts jailed Mr Kiszko for that particularly horrendous crime.

Seventeen years later, Mr Kiszko was taken from prison to hospital with a fairly serious illness that required him to undergo a full and thorough examination. Mr Kiszko had been convicted mainly on the basis that his sperm had been left on the victim’s clothing. However, the medical examination discovered that Mr Kiszko, due to his lack of male paraphernalia, did not have, and had never had, the capacity to rape somebody or to produce any sperm. When he was charged, he was aged 23, with the mental and emotional age of a 12-year-old. Had the death penalty been available, that totally innocent person, who in real terms was a child, would have been executed and no one would have been any the wiser. He would have gone.

Mr Kiszko was released when he was 43. Only two people had been convinced that he was innocent—his mother and his lawyer, both of whom had stood by him throughout, right to the end. If anyone still believes in the death sentence after being made aware of that case, I feel only sorrow for them. Unfortunately, Mr Kiszko died 18 months after being released, and was quickly followed by his mother, so neither of them got the benefit of the £500,000 that the state paid because of its errors.

Use of the death sentence had ended just seven years prior to that murder case. Throughout the country, there was much pressure to bring back the death sentence, based on that single case. If Mr Kiszko had been executed, the state would have murdered a completely innocent person who, in real terms, was a child.

As they say in court, I rest my case.