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Judicial CP - April 1937

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Daily Mirror, London, 5 April 1937, p.9

Birching Officer Told 'Take More Care'

Click to enlarge

A SOUTH SHIELDS police officer who was told by Colonel Brook, Inspector of Constabulary, that in future he must exercise more care in birching boys, has been informed that the Home Office hold that there was no undue severity and no occasion for disciplinary action.

This is revealed in a report by South Shields Town Clerk, Mr. Harold Ayrey, on the birching of a nine-year-old boy on a magistrates' order.

Colonel Brook visited South Shields after the attention of the Home Office had been drawn to the case.

Stood Too Near

After seeing a demonstration of how the birching was administered, Colonel Brook expressed the opinion that the marks on the boy were caused through the officer standing a little too near when he inflicted the punishment, so that the thin end of the birch went round the boy's body and made marks round the stomach.

He was satisfied, however, that the officer had been guilty merely of an error of judgment.

The Town Council has decided that in future a leather shield is to be provided to protect the front of the body.

Evening News, London, 7 April 1937

Let Beatings Begin at Home

Says an M.P. who has had his own

MAJOR RALPH RAYNER, Conservative M.P. for Totnes, Devon, is not the fierce father you might expect after reading his letter about birching.

He wrote this a few days ago to Mrs. A. Revell, secretary of Totnes Co-operative Women's Guild, which asked him to protest against the birching of children.

"Major Ralph Rayner presents his compliments to A. Revell, and thanks the lady or gentleman in question for his or her note. He has noted the contents, but is not particularly sympathetic, as he himself has been well beaten in his time and hopes his son will have to experience the same kind of disciplinary measures."

The Parent's Job

Major and Mrs. Rayner have one child, a little boy aged two.

This is what the Major said to-day:

"When I speak of disciplinary measures I don't mean harsh beatings. In fact, I am against birchings carried out under magistrates' orders. I think that in all these family matters any chastisement should be carried out by the parent, if the magistrates think a beating of some sort is necessary.

"But I don't think that we should get too soft -- as we seem to be doing -- about these matters, and I don't want it to appear that I am against chastising children when it is necessary, as it sometimes is.

"No, I didn't consult my wife before I wrote the letter to Mrs. Revell. I think she agrees with me about it."

Doncaster Chronicle, 8 April 1937

Bench Order the Birch For Nine Boys

Stole Property of a Blind Man

Justices in the West Riding Juvenile Court at Doncaster on Wednesday ordered that nine boys who had stolen oranges, nuts and sweets, the property of a blind man, should receive three strokes with the birch. The Chairman (Mr W. Anderson) described the theft as a "very, very dirty trick."

Inspector Redfern said that a policeman saw some of the boys eating oranges in a street, and from his inquiries found that 22 oranges, 81 bags of sweets, and 27 bags of nuts had been stolen from a storeplace at Mexborough.

The oranges, sweets, and nuts were the property of a blind man who got his living by selling fruit, etc. to cinema and theatre queues. It was found that the boys who went into the store had squeezed through a small space above the door.

In court the boys denied that they went into the store, but admitted that one boy went in and threw the nuts and sweets out to them.

Nutshells in Street

A policeman said that "the streets of Mexborough were strewn with nutshells" on the night of the theft.

The Chairman (Mr W. Anderson) told the boys that they had done a very, very dirty trick -- stealing from a blind man. "Your parents are mostly out of work, so it is no use fining them, but we are going to stop this kind of thing. Each of you is going to have three strokes with the birch, to see if that will do you good. Personally, I am sure it will."

Mothers of some of the boys protested in court against the decision of the Bench, and they were ordered out of court.

Doncaster Free Press, 22 April 1937


Birch for boys

Doncaster West Riding Magistrates Criticised

For their decision to inflict three strokes of the birch rod on each of eight Mexborough and Swinton boys who had robbed a blind man the Doncaster West Riding magistrates have been criticised. We cannot understand why; or perhaps we had better say that, knowing the mentality of some people, we are surprised at nothing they say.

The Doncaster West Riding magistrates have probably had a wider experience of young hooligans than any other bench of magistrates in this country; certainly none have wider. Experience has taught them that there is a type of young hooligan upon whom kind words are lost.

A few years ago the Home Office decided that juvenile offenders were to be treated more humanely; the police court atmosphere was to be removed. There were to be no uniformed policemen on duty when juvenile offenders were being tried. There was to be no harshness. The children were to be shown the error of their ways and by kindly advice brought back to the straight path. The result is that for several years in most police courts really vicious and brutal youngsters of from ten to sixteen years have been allowed to go scot free after committing really serious offences. All the punishment they have received in many instances has been a lecture from some old lady or gentleman who has expressed regret at seeing the young ruffian there and told him to go home and not be a naughty boy any more. And the boy has gone home -- to the streets and told his pals all about the "silly old jokers" who have been preaching to him.

The Doncaster West Riding magistrates have found that preaching does not pay, especially in the case of young hooligans who, owing to lack of discipline and home training have got an idea that any kind of hooliganism and thieving is in order provided they can get away with it. The chief sin is to be found out; but in any case a visit to a police court in the role of defendant is an experience which all he-men must undergo at least once.

Thus the mentality of some of the young riff-raff of the pit villages. The birch is the only thing they understand. The best language to use toward them is that which shows that if they hurt anyone, someone else (the magistrates or police) is going to hurt them in return.


Birching as a punishment is defended by a prison medical officer writing in the current issue of the British Medical Journal.

Reply to a letter from Dr Maple, in which birching was condemned as inhuman, Dr P.G. Bentiff, who is attached to Jersey Prison, says:

"I have myself witnessed about a dozen birchings of young children and although it is not a pleasant spectacle, I have no hesitation in saying that in not a single instance was there any sign of that physical and mental anguish that Dr Maple would have us believe afflicts the unfortunate victim."

Dr Bentiff observes that the growth of psycho-analysis in the last few years has been amazing.

He believes that haphazard use of the science may turn healthy young people in "hypochondriacs and incurable neurotics."

"I am of the firm opinion," he adds, "that corporal punishment, carried out humanely ... is a far better method of controlling crime than a lot of indiscriminate dabbling with a science about which so few of us know so very little."

Doncaster Gazette, 22 April 1937

Doncaster West Riding Magistrates' Decision

Boys Ordered to be Birched

Theft charges

Birching was ordered on Wednesday by the Doncaster West Riding magistrates as punishment for six of a party of boys accused at the Juvenile Court of theft and breaking into premises.

The mother of a boy concerned in theft charges, who had been ordered strokes of the birch on another charge since the date of the offences with which he was charged on Wednesday, told the magistrates that she was sure the birching had been a lesson to him.

"He has been a good boy since," she added.

The Clerk (Mr E.W. Pettifer): After what has appeared in the Press, I am glad to have that testimony from you, one of the mothers.

This boy was one of two bound over for larceny at Mexborough.

A 12-year-old Mexborough boy, who admitted nine charges of theft, was ordered six strokes of the birch, and two boys aged 11 and 12 years, concerned in six theft charges, were each ordered four strokes.

Among the articles which the boys admitted stealing, in groups of two, three and four, were a tent, two fishing rods, four pork pies, a spring trap, canvas sheeting, a hammer and a screwdriver.

Bench "determined."

Two of the boys were accused of breaking and entering a garage and stealing two butchers' knives, and offences at Rotherham were taken into consideration.

"We are determined to stop this sort of thing," said Mr W. Anderson, who presided.

Three Bentley boys were also ordered strokes of the birch.

A 12-year-old boy who pleaded guilty to 12 charges of breaking and entering and theft, and a 13-year-old boy who admitted ten similar charges, were each ordered six strokes, and a 12-year-old boy also concerned in several similar charges was ordered four strokes.

Three Bentley boys, two aged 14 and another aged 15, were bound over for 12 months, and each ordered to pay 10s. towards the costs.

The Bentley boys were charged, in various groups, with breaking into a warehouse and stealing roller skates; breaking into an office and stealing cigarettes, fountain pen and admission tickets; breaking into a shop and stealing biscuits; breaking into a shop and stealing 3s. 7d. from a gas meter; breaking into a house and stealing 4s. from an electric meter; breaking into a house and stealing 10d. from the gas meter; stealing a bicycle; and stealing various amounts from a gas meter.

Mothers of several of the boys ordered to be birched left the Court in tears.

Mother punished, too!

The Clerk asked the mother of one of the boys accused of theft whether the boy's father had whipped him.

"Yes, he's whipped both of us," was the mother's reply.

The Chairman: Why has he whipped you? -- Because I allowed him to go out.

Evening Standard, London, 12 April 1937

M.P. Says Caning In His Youth Did Him Good

SIR GEORGE BOWYER, M.P., has sent the following letter to the Bletchley (Bucks) Women's Co-operative Guild, who had stated that they were seriously disturbed by the treatment of child delinquents and had asked him to support any legislation that would take away from magistrates the power to order birching:

"I regret that I do not agree with you about what you refer to as the birching of child offenders.

"At both schools which I attended corporal punishment was inflicted, and instead of doing any harm it did nothing but good.

"I have two boys myself who are now at school, and I should be very sorry to think that at either of their schools there was no corporal punishment, provided always that corporal punishment is only given where the offence is grave and the punishment justified.

"Fully justified"

"I well remember the two occasions when I myself had to undergo this drastic treatment.

"Looking back upon these two occasions, I can assure you that my corporal punishment was fully justified and probably did me all the good in the world."

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