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Judicial CP - September 1954

South China Morning Post, Hong Kong, 11 September 1954

Sailors Win Appeal

Prison Sentences Quashed But Caning To Be Carried Out

Rev. Haig-Brown's Evidence


The Full Court, comprising the acting Chief Justice, Mr Justice T.J. Gould, and the Senior Puisne Judge, Mr Justice C.W. Reece, yesterday allowed an appeal by two British sailors against their sentence of three years' hard labour passed upon them last month for robbery with aggravation.

cuttingAppellants, Peter Wilkinson, 19, and John Joseph Flynn, 19, both of HMS St Bride's Bay, had their prison terms varied to being bound over to be of good behaviour for three years, but the sentence of corporal punishment of 10 strokes of the cane is to stand.

They were convicted of robbing a Chinese of a pair of binoculars and 70 cents in Garden Road after they had stopped the man and asked for a light.

Mr A.J. Clifford, who appeared for both appellants on the instructions of Mr J.C.B. Slack, of Hastings and Co., made a strong plea in mitigation of the offence. He said both appellants were just 19 and very immature. He drew the Court's attention to the increasing tendency of the Courts at Home to treat with leniency crimes by youths up to the age of 25, and cited a number of cases in support.

"Good Boys"

He said that people of the appellants' age often behaved very stupidly. Counsel himself, at the age of 18, had done things of which he was very proud at the time but of which he was thoroughly ashamed now. There was at Home a special class of persons between the ages of 16 and 21 who were known as juvenile adults and there were special conditions in respect of them. ..... Counsel submitted that it was extremely bad policy for the State to make criminals of good boys.

Dealing with the characters of the appellants, Mr Clifford said that at the time of the trial, their commanding officer was at sea and could not be called to testify. Counsel was informed that the appellants were two extremely good boys who had never been in trouble at all and there was no doubt they had the makings of good sailors, if given another chance.

It would be a great shame if the appellants had to go to prison, said Mr Clifford. Apart from that, the men would be dismissed from the Service and, being professional sailors, that would be the end of their livelihood .....


The attack, he submitted, was entirely unpremeditated. Complainant suffered bruises. In their condition, appellants had lost all sense of proportion and they themselves would be the first to admit they had been extremely foolish.


The Rev. W.J. Haig-Brown, Chaplain to the Missions to Seamen, said that part of his duties was to visit all Europeans in both the Stanley and Victoria remand gaols. ......He had visited the appellants once a week ... and found them to be completely out of the ordinary run of persons. They had been foolish and had been out on a drunken spree. He was quite sure they would go straight.

"I consider a term in Stanley would do them untold harm," Mr Haig-Brown went on. "If they are under naval discipline, I think both would react particularly well. If they had their behinds severely tanned and then sent back to their ship, their captain, without doubt, would see that corrective measures are applied. I am sure they would benefit from a tanning, but not from a prison sentence."

For the Crown, Mr Blair-Kerr said he did not dispute the characters of the appellants, but the type of offence of which they had been found guilty had risen in incidence during the last 18 months ..... Whatever the Court might do in regard to the prison sentence, Crown Counsel said he would exhort it not to interfere with the sentence of caning.

Court's Decision

Giving the Court's decision, Mr Justice Gould said: "The Court has listened to the arguments advanced on your behalf by Counsel and it has heard evidence which has been tendered concerning your characters and previous behaviour. .... we have had evidence given by your commanding officer and by the Rev. Haig-Brown which leads the Court to believe this case should be treated as an exception .......

"Therefore the Court is allowing your application for leave to appeal and in lieu of the sentence of imprisonment imposed upon you, it is ordered that you be discharged conditionally upon your entering into recognisances without sureties .........

"The sentence of corporal punishment is confirmed and will be carried out forthwith."


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