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Judicial CP - July 1965


Daily Record, Glasgow, UK, 20 July 1965

Teenagers in holiday row

Birch Them! Sentence on Four Scots

By Bill Robertson


FOUR 19-year-old Glasgow youths were yesterday BIRCHED on the orders of an Isle of Man magistrate.

The four, all on holiday at Douglas, were each given nine strokes on their bare buttocks.

The "sentence" followed a promenade battle in which bottles and a deck-chair were used as weapons. Three other holidaymakers were hurt, the jaw of one was broken.


Last night the magistrate who ordered the birching, burly, grey-haired Mr Tom Radcliffe, said:

"The birch may be called medieval, inhuman -- even sadistic. All I know is -- IT WORKS."

Mr Radcliffe, the chief magistrate at Douglas, was home for tea after his latest session on the bench. Back in the town's police cells, a police officer -- watched by a doctor -- was wielding the birch.

The holiday isle, with 25,000 Glasgow Fair folks on its beaches, is the only place in Britain where the birch is still used.

Mr Radcliffe went on: "The birch is used only in bad cases involving personal injury to innocent people.

"For the young hooligans who hit people with bottles. The types who kick people when they are down.

"It may be a bit non-British. But quite frankly I find the birch a very good deterrent. We are determined to stamp out holiday hooliganism."

Youths in the Isle of Man can receive up to 12 strokes for assault causing bodily harm. It covers offenders in the 14-21 age group.


The four youths who were birched yesterday are:

James McKell, 46 Cathay Street, Milton; William Keenan, 6 Burnside Street, Cowcaddens; William Connelly, 136 West Graham Street, Garnethill, and Joseph McKay, 79 Grove Street, Cowcaddens -- all Glasgow.

They were also fined a total of £80 -- McKay, Keenan and McKell, £15 each and Connelly, £35.

All four admitted assaulting Alexander Bell, also from Glasgow, who, the court heard, had to be treated in hospital for a broken jaw and two head wounds......

Evening Citizen, Glasgow, UK, 20 July 1965

The lady in my bus queue -- and the birch

By Scott Cameron

THUGLAND suffers from sympathetic pains today, because the Isle of Man authorities were bold enough to make the punishment fit the crime. Scotland had almost forgotten about the birch. Now four young Glasgow men will remember it painfully for the rest of their lives.

In these days of mounting hooliganism, has the time come to consider making the birch a deterrent again instead of a museum piece.

A bus queue is as good a forum of public opinion as any, and in mine this morning everyone was discussing the Isle of Man case. And everyone was in favour of the verdict.


Hooliganism was not far away. One woman had just tried to make an urgent phone call and found the phone had been wrenched from its mounting.

Another had a friend still recovering from the shock of having her bag snatched.

And later a letter, arriving purely coincidentally from a friend, told me how his teenage son had been beaten up in Glasgow at the weekend by some young thugs who demanded money.

It was written before the Isle of Man case hit the news and it contained the phrase "The authorities should stop bending over backwards in order to be lenient and start bending these thugs over for the dose of the cane for their own good and the benefit of the whole community."

And a city lawyer told me that on poor roll work in the past he would often notice a significant gap in the formidable list of his client's previous convictions.


When he checked back he found that the temporary reformation invariably followed a sentence of corporal punishment.

And his clients told him frankly that they would never have returned to crime if this form of punishment had not been abolished.


Daily Record, Glasgow, UK, 21 July 1965

Frankly Speaking

Shock for the bold bullies ...


By Michael Grieve

There is a medieval menace about the birch.

Certainly its use today seems wrong, a relic from the brutal days of violent flogging.

But do young thugs who attack people with bottles and kick them when they fall to the ground, deserve anything better?

The four 19-year-old Glasgow youths who were given nine strokes of the birch on the Isle of Man are revealed as babbling cowards.

Miserable little bullies who profess themselves shocked at being birched -- although one of their victims had his jaw broken.


As they stood in the police cell with their trousers off I wonder if they thought about violence, of how frightened innocent holidaymakers were when they started their brutal little battle?

What I find particularly revealing is the shrill, whining and completely nauseating remarks they made after being birched.

James McKell, of 46 Cathay Street, Milton, was quoted as saying he could hardly believe he was in the 20th century!

"The pain was fantastic -- I kept screaming for my parents."

What a punk! Ready to dish out trouble as part of a gang but unable to take a caning.

Joseph McKay, 79 Grove Street, Cowcaddens, shook like a leaf. His quote: "I just screamed and screamed."

What a bold, swaggering hero. Perhaps he really does believe that kicking people is more civilised than birching.


William Keenan, 6 Burnside Street, Cowcaddens, was petrified. He could hardly believe it was happening to him.

How pleasant that it was. How sweet that an innocent holidaymaker was not suffering.

Then there is William Connelly, 135 West Graham Street, Garnethill, who protested: "I'm on holiday. I'm not a criminal."

It was in 1960 that the birching law on the Isle of Man was changed. Up till then it could only be used for people up to the age of 15.

The promoter of the extended birch law, war-blinded barrister Mr Howard Simcocks, says:

"The root of the trouble is that teenagers from big cities like Glasgow have too much money to spend and too little discipline within themselves."

In Glasgow last year the number of serious assaults rose to 587 -- 116 more than in 1963.

Bailie Maurice Shinwell, senior magistrate in Glasgow, told me:

"There are times when cases of this kind make you so angry one almost feels tempted to teach them a lesson by giving them a good spanking.

What annoys me is that more consideration is not given to the people hounded and hurt by hooligans.

Of course, birching in this country has long been banned and there is little likelihood of it coming back.

But imposing fines does not seem to be a deterrent. [...]

In Glasgow we have more than our share of these hooligans. There should be much less pandering to them. [...] Anyway, if they go to other places they must respect the law -- and be prepared for its use.

If they had behaved like decent citizens they would not have been birched."

That, of course, is the point -- "behaving like decent citizens."

Whether you believe in corporal punishment or not -- and I don't -- there is a superb touch of poetic justice in the birching of these four cowardly thugs.


Sunday Mirror, London, 25 July 1965

"Britain Should Use The Birch"

-- says the Governor of the "get tough" Isle of Man

By Mike Barron

TOP officials of the Isle of Man have given Britain a cure for mods and rockers in two terse words: "BIRCH THEM."

Already the holiday island's all-out war on toughs has started at Douglas with the sentencing of four Glasgow youths to nine strokes each.

In the past few days scores of letters have reached Douglas, the island's capital, from the mainland -- where the birch is no longer used -- praising the sentence and congratulating the magistrates. Mr Tom Radcliffe, chief magistrate of Douglas, who ordered last Monday's birching, said: "British law is getting soft. It forgets the pain of the victim.


"Our system works and we are proud of it. The birch is feared and respected. Britain should try it."

The island's Lieutenant-Governor, Sir Ronald Garvey, 62, said: "Britain should use it again. The people want it back.

"It beats me how consecutive Governments can afford to put a finger to their noses at the views and feelings of 99.9 per cent of the electorate who want birching brought back."

Birched thugs: 9 strokes each

Three of the youths who were birched -- from left, James McKell, William Keenan, and William Connelly -- at the seaside at Douglas, Isle of Man. The weals left by the birching are still visible.

The birched Glasgow youths, all aged 19, are Joseph McKay of Grove-street, William Keenan of Burnside-street, James McKell of Cathay-street, and William Connelly of West Graham-street.

They admitted causing bodily harm to a holidaymaker by setting upon him, hitting him with a bottle, and stamping on him after he asked them to stop swearing. The four were also fined a total of £80.

Only two hours after sentence the birch -- three 3ft. twigs bound into a 14in. long handle at one end and weighing a maximum of 9oz. -- was produced.

Brown-haired James McKell said: "I was led away to an upstairs room. Nine people were waiting.


"I was bent face downwards over the back of a chair. I cried with fear. My trousers were pulled down and my shirt pulled up. Two policemen held my arms and a third held my head down. A fourth, a sergeant, used the birch.

"The pain was terrible. I kept screaming for my parents. I was in pain for hours."

Stocky, pug-nosed William Connelly said: "I thought they were hitting me with red-hot wire.

"I just shouted until they had finished."

William Keenan said: "It was over quickly. But I'll never do anything that could get me the birch again."

Magistrate Radcliffe told me: "This island is a happy place. We want to keep it so that people are safe to walk the streets."

Mr Edward Bancroft, president of the Hotel Association, added:

"We would rather have fewer holidaymakers than be flooded with Mods and Rockers like Clacton and Margate."

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