Daniel Pascoe writes:

I completed my DPhil in Law in October 2013, and was supervised by Professor Carolyn Hoyle. My thesis was entitled ‘An Investigation of Clemency and Pardons in Death Penalty Cases in Southeast Asia from 1975-2009’, with my two closely related aims being to a) document the known examples of clemency grants in Southeast Asian death penalty cases over the past few decades, and b) to explain why some countries in the region grant clemency far more often than do others.

Adopting the methodology of comparative criminal justice, and building on Johnson and Zimring’s seminal 2009 comparative study of the death penalty in Asia (‘The Next Frontier’), I conducted extensive in-country fieldwork in Southeast Asia, consisting of interviews with criminal justice practitioners, civil servants, politicians and civil society personnel, together with archive-based research in the UK and in the countries under study.

My findings, as they relate to four of the five actively retentionist jurisdictions in the ASEAN region (Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand – excluding Vietnam as a country inappropriate for comparison), were first of all that clemency grants are indeed made in death penalty cases in all of these jurisdictions, albeit at vastly different ‘rates’ in comparison with the number of prisoners executed.  Second and most significantly, I found that three factors were plausible determinants of clemency frequency within the four countries under study:

1. The extent to which, in law and in practice, lenient discretion had been exercised at earlier phases of the criminal justice system in the processing of death penalty cases (i.e. by police, prosecutors, trial judges and appeal judges).  The greater the amount of lenient discretion, the less that clemency is subsequently needed as a procedural safeguard against the severity of the death sentence;

2. Whether the executive decision-maker on clemency is an unelected and possibly authoritarian leader (leading to more clemency), as opposed to a democratically-elected leader (less clemency); and finally,

3. The average length of time that prisoners spend on death row in each jurisdiction, with a longer time spent on death row being correlated with a higher incidence of clemency.

Since the submission of my thesis and corrections, I have been kept busy by teaching, working as a research assistant at the Centre for Criminology and as a note-taker for the Disability Advisory Service, together with revising my research for publication.  An article detailing the above findings has been accepted for publication in the Australian Journal of Asian Law and will appear in an early 2014 issue.

Moreover, I will begin an appointment as Assistant Professor in Law at the City University of Hong Kong in January 2014, where I will combine undergraduate teaching in criminal law and evidence, together with further research on the death penalty in the Asia-Pacific region.  It’s the end of a wonderful five years in Oxford, and more specifically at the Centre for Criminology.

I can be contacted at daniel.pascoe@gmail.com.