Annual Roger Hood Lecture from Prof Dirk van Zyl Smit

Organised by the Centre for Criminology, Oxford University

The title of Prof Dirk van Zyl Smit (University of Nottingham) is ‘The People Strike Back? Life imprisonment and other ultimate penalties in a constitutional democracy’

Penal reformers have long fought to make ultimate penalties more humane. They have sought, with some success, not only to abolish the death penalty but also to limit the imposition of life sentences and to ensure that those serving life imprisonment have realistic prospects of release.

Unfortunately, concerted efforts are being made in several jurisdictions to reverse the trend. The right to impose capital punishment is being reasserted. The use of whole life sentences, denying prisoners all hope of returning to free society, is increasing. Countries with the death penalty, which also had life imprisonment with a possibility of release, are now adding whole life sentences with no hope of release.

This lecture will explore these countertendencies and apparent drift towards authoritarian populism. It will argue that this drift is facilitated by a failure in many countries, including the United Kingdom, to resist the (re)introduction of inhumane punishments that have no place in a constitutional democracy.

To register for this free event please visit the Eventbrite page here: