Killer Cops – The Failure of Deterrence

By Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (April 14th 2017)


Article 50 has been triggered, but it has emerged that many Brexit supporters want more than tighter immigration controls – they want the return of capital punishment too, but what does it achieve? Deterrence?

If anyone should be deterred, it should be those aware of the consequences – police, lawyers, prison offices, for example, so let’s see whether it works in practice. It has been over half a century since Britain carried out its last execution. The 1950s was an important decade for executions in Britain – four serious miscarriages of justice and the only serving police officer at the time of his offence hanged for murder.

A Unique Place in Infamy

James Robertson was hanged on December 16th 1950. He was the only police officer to suffer execution in Britain in the 20th Century ( although former officers had been hanged in both that century and the preceding one too. But Britain is far from alone in executing police officers whom the death penalty failed to deter.

Robertson’s crime was callous, but Mohamed Mustafa Tabet was the Poster-boy of Infamy. His litany of crimes and the cover-up that was attempted disgrace any notion of justice.

Tabet was executed by firing squad on August 8th 1993. He was a serial rapist, believed to have claimed as many as 518 victims, mostly school-girls. Tabet had abused his position as a Commissioner of Police in Casablanca, and been allowed to commit these heinous crimes through the complicity of colleagues – later jailed – and a doctor who disgraced his profession, Dr Driss Lahlou (


Despite terrorist atrocities in 2003 and 2007, Morocco’s last execution was that of Tabet. So what about countries that retain and use the death penalty? Has the death penalty deterred law enforcement officers from committing capital offences?

Tabet and Robertson are not the only examples of police officers who have been executed. Resenting the loss of his position as Vice-Chairman of the Brigade Revolutionary Committee, for failing to adhere to family planning policy, the Brigade Militia Company Commander Wang Xiwen’s became a mass murderer. His shooting spree killed seven and wounded 12 in Handan on November 17th1980.

His support for the notorious Gang of Four, and actions in support of them made clemency even less likely. The trial of the Gang of Four had been due to begin that month. Xiwen broke into an armoury and stole weapons, including grenades. He returned to stock up on weapons too. His rampage left six dead – another fatally wounded – and 12 more injured, five of them seriously.

Found guilty on April 1981, Xiwen’s appeals proceeded quickly – the last of which was dismissed on June 10th 1981. He was immediately executed by firing squad in front of a 50,000 crowd at the Handan Municipal Stadium.

Elite Assassin

On January 4th 2011 the Governor of Punjab (Pakistan), Salmaan Taseer was assassinated by his bodyguard Malik Mumtaz Qadri, because Qadri a fundamentalist Muslim, objected to Tasseer’s opposition to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.

Qadri shot Taseer 27 times with an AK-47. Qadri was convicted at an Anti-Terrorism court in Islamabad on October 10th 2011. His appeal against the death penalty was dismissed by Pakistan’s Supreme Court on December 12th 2015. He was hanged on February 29th 2016.

Qadri had been a member of the Elite Police – ironically a domestic counter-terrorist unit in the Punjab – since 2010. It also provided VIP protection.

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