Clive Stafford Smith

Clive Stafford Smith takes over Litweeter

on 12 July 2010


To commemorate the anniversary of Ruth Ellis's execution, I will be tweeting live at the Litweeter Festival – part of the London Literature Festival at the Southbank Centre – at 2.30 afternoon.

Today is the 55th anniversary of the death of Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be executed in Britain. Ruth’s case provoked widespread public outrage – over 50,000 people signed a petition for clemency – and is now considered a pivotal moment in the campaign for the abolition of the death penalty in the UK. In 1965 the Murder (Abolition of the Death Penalty) Act suspended the death penalty for murder for five years, and the Act was made permanent in 1969. There were no subsequent executions for other crimes, although the death penalty was not wholly abolished until the ratification of the 6th Protocol of the European Convention on Human Rights and the bringing into force of section 21(5) of the Human Rights Act in 1998.

Yet as I write these words, another British woman faces imminent execution at the hands of the state, this time in Texas. Linda Carty, a mother and a grandmother who was sentenced to death after a trial riddled with holes and inconsistencies and a series of disastrous failures on the part of her court-appointed defence counsel. Crucially, the Foreign Office was not informed of Linda’s case and nationality until after she had been condemned to death. Linda has now exhausted the US appeals process and is thus at the end of her legal tether; only a grant of clemency from the Governor of Texas will save her now and the chances of that are extremely slim.

To commemorate Ruth’s execution and draw attention to Linda’s plight, I will be participating in the Litweeter Festival – part of the London Literature Festival at the Southbank Centre – tomorrow afternoon. The Festival involves a daily interactive online event, hosted by the likes of Ben Goldacre, Slavoj Zizek and Marcus du Sautoy. Between 2.30pm and 3.30pm I’ll be at www.twitter.com/litweeter for an hour of conversation and debate. Please tweet your questions and comments to #LLF10 and I’ll be very happy to respond. Linda loves to read, so I’d particularly like to hear your recommendations of books that have helped you during difficult times.

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