Why Was Derek Bentley Important in Changing Attitudes Towards Capital Punishment?

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The death of Derek Bentley in 1953 sparked controversy across the nation. Even when Bentley had been sentenced to death by capital punishment, people didn’t give up the fight. No body, not even the body guards, could comprehend why this was still going ahead. Members of the public protested day and night outside of Wandsworth Prison, and many people wrote letters to members of parliament and even the queen. So, after all of this, why was Derek still hanged? Well, this is what many people asked after his death and still ask today. Some may say that because he was granted a posthumous pardon in the 1990’s his death was justified. But Bentley’s family and friends would never be able to see him alive and well again, a death penalty is a death penalty, no amount of pardons will bring Derek or any other victims back. And getting the pardon was not easy to achieve. Derek’s family and members of the public had to fight to get a pardon, just like they had to fight to save him from capital punishment in the first place, and that had failed. It took almost 45 years. Right from the start, there was no solid case presented in court to convict Bentley. The fact that Bentley had developed epilepsy after a life threatening fall when he was 5 and was proven to have the mind of a young child, even in his late teen years, did not seem to appear in court as defence for why he should not be hanged. This is one example of the many unfair advantages that the legal system had over Bentley. If this was taken in to consideration, many would say that Bentley would’ve had more time to prove his innocence or to protest against being sentenced to capital punishment. Also, a piece of evidence used in court against Derek Bentley was a quote of what he allegedly shouted to his partner in crime Christopher Craig. The police officer who witnessed the murder said that Bentley shouted “Let him
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