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Saul Lehrfreund

This Chapter traverses the history of the death penalty in former British colonies and illuminates the role of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in developing and refining some of the key constitutional principles that have come to restrict the imposition and application of the death penalty. It provides a comprehensive analysis of the colonial death penalty regime, its legacy throughout many Commonwealth countries and the development of post-independence constitutions. The author examines the role of the judiciary during the post-independence period, revealing a culture of judicial abstinence protecting the colonial status quo. The author illustrates how the impact of international human rights obligations came to influence the approach adopted by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council and to ameliorate the severity of the colonial death penalty regime. In so doing, he evaluates the harmonisation of domestic and international human rights standards, the creation of a new legal order through a judicial interventionist approach, and the precipitation of worldwide constitutional jurisprudence that has brought the application of the death penalty in closer conformity with international human rights norms.