George Bernard Shaw
From The Sunday Express, 13 May 1928
I have been asked to give my opinion "on the popular point of view that a particularly brutal and callous murder of this kind [the reference is to the murder of Police Constable Gutteridge] is one of the cases in which capital punishment is justified."
Now the first thing I have to observe is that the adjectives "brutal and callous" are wildly inappropriate, and represent simply the popular loss of temper over the murder, and the customary English resort to vituperation to relieve the strain.
The murder of Constable Gutteridge was an entirely reasonable one; the work, apparently, of an out-and-out Rationalist. Further, the person who committed it was one of those sensitive people to whom the condition of a criminal under punishment is unbearable.
Also it was the work of someone who was credulous as to "the marvels of science," which take the same place in modern life as miracles did in that of the Ages of Faith.
Reasonable murders practically all fall into the same class: they are murders committed by criminals to escape detection and capture. The reasoning is simple. Our police statistics show the number of murders committed every year, and the proportion of them that are never brought to justice. That is, they show the odds for and against impunity for the murderer.
A robber surprised in the act by a police officer or a householder has to consider that if he surrenders he will certainly spend several years in penal servitude. If he shoots, this certainty is replaced by a risk of being hanged, and a chance of escape.
Such was the situation created by the encounter with the unfortunate