Some crimes, like those of Peter Scully, deserve nothing but the death penalty

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Peter Scully (right) arrives at the Cagayan De Oro court handcuffed to another inmate on his first day of his trial.  Photo: Kate Geraghty

Peter Scully (right) arrives at the Cagayan De Oro court handcuffed to another inmate on his first day of his trial. Photo: Kate Geraghty

I'm sure the invitation is in the mail. But the delay is understandable. It's probably been pretty busy at your end this week, waiting for your moral cloak of superiority to come back from the dry cleaners as you begin to summon a fresh sense of outrage over the decision by Philippines prosecutors to call for the reintroduction of the death penalty for the Australian Peter Scully.

You know about his case, of course. You must be angry. Again. Scully fled Melbourne a few years ago after being involved in the fleecing of more than $2.6 million in a property scam. Made his way to the Philippines, where he set himself up filming the torturing and sexual abuse of little girls, which he later sold on a pay-per-view basis to like-minded scum around the world.

He told 60 Minutes last year he wasn't sure why he'd ended up following such a depraved path but he was still wrestling with the notion of regret over his actions. "At what point do you have remorse? I can't answer that honestly yet," he said. Scully is now facing more than 70 charges, including the murder of an 11-year-old girl whose body was found, strangled, in a shallow grave beneath a house he was renting.

Prosecutors want the death penalty brought back for this case after the Philippines scrapped it in 2006, largely at the instigation of the Catholic Church. 

This is a tough case for you, isn't it. You're opposed to capital punishment on all the usual grounds – that it debases us as a civilised society, that it lowers us to the same level as the perpetrator, that errors in law too often see the wrong person executed, that there is no evidence that the death penalty serves as a deterrent. But Scully's crimes are so horrendous that even you, staunch moral guardian that you are, must have paused and thought about your stance.

Still, your anger that anyone would dare question the sanctity of life and raise the spectre of execution has surely won out. That's why I'm keen to know if you have sent out the invitations for a candlelight vigil for Peter Scully. After all, you're morally obliged to hold one, aren't you?

Last year you wept and railed in Martin Place against the Indonesian government's decision to slay Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan over their role in a stupidly botched attempt to smuggle drugs.

You wrote letters of condemnation. You organised petitions on street corners and throughout social media. You called for all Australians to boycott travel plans to Bali and the rest of that nation.

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were executed by firing squad in Indonesia in April.

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were executed by firing squad in Indonesia in April.

And you spoke from a position of strength. Federal Parliament passed legislation six years ago preventing any state from reintroducing the death penalty. The people we elect won't even broach the subject. And if the Philippines do bring back the death penalty and execute Scully, it will be those same representatives in Canberra who will be obligated to lodge a formal protest with the Filipino government, as we do in all circumstances when an Australian is sentenced to death overseas. What an outstanding moral stance that will be.

So how about we add a question to next year's planned plebiscite on gay marriage asking Australians if they would support the idea of execution in certain circumstances where crimes are deemed so horrendous they are beyond comprehension. Cases like Peter Scully.

That won't happen, of course, because you know what the result would be. God help us. It might trigger a wave of changes that could see majority opinion becoming the norm in this country. And as you know, the masses have never known what's good for them.

The tiring argument you put forward is that sentencing people to life imprisonment, to be trapped by their thoughts and drown in their remorse, is a punishment befitting the snuffing out of an innocent human life. Do you honestly think Martin Bryant has suffered more than his victims and their families after the devastation he inflicted at Port Arthur?

Take off that moral cloak. People who believe in capital punishment in certain circumstances don't want to drag society back to the Middle Ages. Most don't even believe it is a deterrent. And they're even willing to take a risk that sometimes the law might get it wrong if it means real justice is served in certain circumstances.

Try a different moral standpoint. We should have no qualms about executing people like Peter Scully if found guilty because they have forfeited what it is to be human. Once you stop treating him as a fellow being, the rest comes naturally.

Most of us would like him to die as slowly and as horribly as his victims did. The last thing he realises in his miserable life? The knowledge that he failed that most basic of entry tests – a place among our species.

Go ahead and organise your candlelight vigil for Scully. You know you have to. Send the invitation if you must but I won't be able to make it.

Good luck drawing a crowd.

Garry Linnell is co-presenter of The Breakfast Show on 2UE Talking Lifestyle.

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