29th April 1964

Guernsey abolishes the death penalty for murder

Guernsey abolished the death penalty for murder in 1964. It was one year ahead of the United Kingdom.

Although convicts had been sentenced to death in the interim, nobody had been executed on Guernsey since John Tapner’s hanging 110 years earlier.

The States of Deliberation held a two-hour debate on its new Homicide Act on 29 April 1964. The vote on abolishing hanging for murder had come at the end of its reading. 34 voted in favour of bringing the practice to an end. Nineteen voted to retain it.

The move had been instigated by the Bailiff, Sir William Arnold, who proposed that it be replaced by life imprisonment. He called the principle of hanging “untenable” and, as reported in the Birmingham Daily Post, noted that “the trend in most civilised countries is against such a spectacular form of retribution”.

Death penalty officially abolished

The exact wording of the abolition, as included in The Homicide (Guernsey) Law of 1965 is,

1 (1) No person shall suffer death for murder and a person found guilty of murder shall, subject to the next succeeding subsection, be sentenced to imprisonment for life.

(2) Where a person found guilty of murder appears to the Royal Court to have been under the age of eighteen years at the time the offence was committed, such person shall not be sentenced to imprisonment for life under subsection (1) of this section but in lieu thereof the Royal Court shall sentence him to be detailed during Her Majesty’s pleasure.

Anyone who had already been handed a death penalty immediately had it committed to life imprisonment. According to a report in the Daily Mirror on 30 April 1964, five people had been sentenced to death in Guernsey over the previous three decades.

Guernsey technically retained hanging as an available punishment for other crimes until 2003.


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Other events that occured in April

Guernsey’s first female murderer goes on trial 1st
A French fisherman is arrested and escorted to St Peter Port 2nd
Guernsey’s new population law comes into force 3rd
Guernsey’s oldest resident dies, aged 110 4th
An occupation-era minefield is discovered at L’Ancresse 5th
Birth of Stone de Croze, the original Guernseyman 6th
The first ever Guernsey stamp is issued 7th
Antiquarian William Collings Lukis was born 8th
Guernsey hosts its first Parkrun at Pembroke 9th
Alderney residents lined the coast to watch Titanic pass 10th
Norfolk pupils spend a week in Guernsey 11th
A plane hit a car while landing at Guernsey Airport 12th
Battery Mirus was test fired for the first time 13th
Royal Guernsey Light Infantry fights at Ypres 14th
Guernsey Mormon Sampson Avard dies in Illinois 15th
Lieutenant Governor, Lord Ruthven, died in Bath 16th
Death of the Vicar General of the Channel Islands 17th
TV’s Jeeves is rushed to hospital on Guernsey 18th
Guernsey Airport’s new terminal opened for business 19th
Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie film opened 20th
Death of Guernsey-born footballer Len Duquemin
Three Jewish women are deported from Guernsey 21st
Guernsey bigamist got married for the second time 22nd
Aurigny pilot Ray Bowyer spots a UFO near Alderney 23rd
The States of Guernsey registers the gov.gg domain 24th
Guernsey-set film The Sea Devils hits cinemas 25th
Hydrofoil Condor 1 completed its final sea trials 26th
The first Muratti football match takes place 27th
Guernsey passengers stage a ferry sit-in 28th
Guernsey abolishes the death penalty for murder 29th
Finishing touches put to new hospital 30th
Murder suspects steal visitor’s boat from St Peter Port