The new home secretary previously said in 2006 she was in favour of the “ultimate punishment” for the worst of crimes, and supported the death penalty during a Question Time debate on the subject in 2011.
Asked about the punishment this week, she told the Mail: “I have never said I’m an active supporter of it and (what I said) is constantly taken out of context.”
But her comments on Question Time were unambiguous:
“I do actually think when we have a criminal justice system that continuously fails in this country and where we have seen murderers, rapists and people who have committed the most abhorrent crimes in society, go into prison and then are released from prison to go out into the community to then re-offend and do the types of crime they have committed again and again.
“I think that’s appalling. And actually on that basis alone I would actually support the reintroduction of capital punishment to serve as a deterrent.”
In her first interview as home secretary, she laid her vision for fighting crime in the UK and said she wants criminals to “feel terror” at the thought of offending.
Patel also voiced a tough stance on drugs, saying cannabis users should not be overlooked by police, the Press Association reports.
“Any form of drug use,” she said. “You don’t turn a blind eye to it at all. It has a corrosive impact on people and communities.”
The Lib Dems accused Patel of “rank hypocrisy” over the zero-tolerance approach, considering the series of admissions from senior Tory colleagues.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson promoted Gove to the cabinet after he was forced to admit using cocaine 20 years ago during social events.
Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine, who has worked for access to medicinal cannabis, called for a “pragmatic, evidence-based approach” to drugs.
“It’s rank hypocrisy for the Home Secretary to take such an archaic approach on cannabis given the recent admissions from members of the cabinet she sits around,” she said.
“The war on drugs has been an unmitigated failure. In reality, by decriminalising cannabis we can remove it from the criminal market and protect vulnerable young people.”
Patel was one of the greatest beneficiaries of Johnson’s cabinet reshuffle after he became prime minister.
She was elevated from the backbenches having been sacked as secretary of state for international development by Theresa May in 2017 for holding secret meetings with members of the Israeli government.