Page last updated at 15:35 GMT, Wednesday, 25 June 2008 16:35 UK

Court bans death for child rape

US Supreme Court building, Washington DC (File picture)
The court banned execution for adult rape in 1977

The US Supreme Court has struck down a law that would have allowed the execution of someone convicted of raping a child.

The court said the Louisiana law would have violated the US constitution's ban on "cruel and unusual punishment".

"The death penalty is not a proportional punishment for the rape of a child," wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy in his majority opinion.

The justices voted 5-4 in favour of striking down the law.

The ruling means that a Louisiana man convicted of raping his stepdaughter in 1998 will not now face the death penalty.

'National consensus'

The US Supreme Court struck down a law allowing the death penalty in cases of adult rape in 1977, but five states still allowed execution when a child rape had been committed.

Citing the 45 states who had imposed bans on execution for child rape, Justice Kennedy wrote in his opinion that "there is a national consensus against capital punishment for the crime of child rape".

Writing on behalf of the minority of justices who opposed the decision, Justice Samuel Alito said: "The harm that is caused to the victims and to society at large by the worst child rapists is grave.

"It is the judgment of the Louisiana lawmakers and those in an increasing number of other states that these harms justify the death penalty."

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