Capital punishment (the imposition of the death penalty by a court) for murder was abolished in England, Wales and Scotland in 1965, and in Northern Ireland in 1973. After those dates, the penalty for murder was a mandatory life sentence.
The history of the death penalty in Britain is long and complex, the law having undergone numerous changes over the centuries. Up until the early decades of the 19th century, crimes punishable by death included "strong evidence of malice in a child aged 7–14 years of age" and "blacking the face or using a disguise whilst committing a crime". Many other trivial offences could incur the death penalty, following the passing of the draconian Black Act in 1723. By 1824, however, judges had been given the power to commute the death penalty for all crimes except treason and murder.
Hanging was the principal method of execution in Britain. Up until 1868, hangings were carried out in public; after that date, they took place in prison.
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