The Death Penalty: Commonwealth Trends, Judicial Reforms and Future Challenges

Free Public Lecture

Lecture Theatre 102
Law 102
1st Floor, 185 Pelham Street


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T: (03) 8344 1122

In recent years the judiciary in many retentionist Commonwealth countries have been active in reforming outdated death penalty laws. This represents a clear shift from a historical period of judicial abstinence to one of judicial intervention. This has been exemplified by the London-based Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, which has imposed strict limitations on the use of the death penalty in the Caribbean in accordance with international human rights standards. Drawing on their own experience of representing prisoners on death row before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council and domestic courts for over 25 years, Parvais and Saul will discuss the developments and restrictions that have been imposed on the use of capital punishment. These have had a profound effect – saving lives and creating jurisprudence that has persuaded other constitutional courts throughout the Commonwealth to apply similar limitations on the use of capital punishment: a process which has been characterised as the “harmonisation of death penalty regimes across borders”. The judiciary have stopped short of prohibiting the death penalty altogether, which is ultimately a political decision, and certain obstacles will need to be overcome before abolition can become a reality in those states who retain capital punishment.


  • Mr Saul Lehrfreund
    Mr Saul Lehrfreund, Co-founder and Co-Executive Director
  • Mr Parvais Jabbar
    Mr Parvais Jabbar, Co-founder and Co-Executive Director