Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act 1965

The Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act 1965 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It abolished the death penalty for murder in Great Britain (the death penalty for murder survived in Northern Ireland until 1973). The Act replaced the penalty of death with a mandatory sentence of imprisonment for life.

The Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act 1965[1]
Long titleAn Act to abolish capital punishment in the case of persons convicted in Great Britain of murder or convicted of murder or a corresponding offence by court-martial and, in connection therewith, to make further provision for the punishment of persons so convicted.
Citation1965 c. 71
Introduced bySydney Silverman
Royal assent8 November 1965
Commencement9 November 1965[2]
Status: Current legislation
Text of statute as originally enacted
Revised text of statute as amended

The Act was introduced to Parliament as a private member's bill by Sydney Silverman MP. The Act provides that charges of capital murder at the time it was passed were to be treated as charges of simple murder and all sentences of death were to be commuted to sentences of life imprisonment. The legislation contained a sunset clause, which stated that the Act would expire on 31 July 1970 "unless Parliament by affirmative resolutions of both Houses otherwise determines".[3] This was done in 1969 and the Act was made permanent.

The Act left four capital offences: high treason, "piracy with violence" (piracy with intent to kill or cause grievous bodily harm), arson in royal dockyards and espionage, as well as other capital offences under military law. The death penalty was not finally abolished in the United Kingdom until 1998 by the Human Rights Act and the Crime and Disorder Act.

The Act replaced the Homicide Act 1957, which had already reduced hangings to only four or less per year.[4] No executions have occurred since the Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act, with the last executions in the United Kingdom carried out on 13 August 1964, when Peter Allen and Gwynne Evans were hanged for murdering John Alan West during a theft four months earlier, a death penalty crime under the 1957 Act.[4]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ The citation of this Act by this short title is authorised by section 3(1) of this Act.
  2. ^ The Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act 1965, section 3(4)
  3. ^ Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act 1965, section 4
  4. ^ a b Seal, Lizzie (12 March 2019). "A brief history of capital punishment in Britain". BBC History Magazine. Retrieved 8 September 2019.

Further readingEdit

  • Brian P. Block; John Hostettler (1997). Hanging in the balance: a history of the abolition of capital punishment in Britain. Waterside Press. ISBN 1-872870-47-3.

External linksEdit

(In force version may be out of date; see warning on site).