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Judicial CP - March 1856

Daily News, London, 13 March 1856

Imperial Parliament.

Assaults on Women and Children.

House of Commons. -- Wednesday, March 12.

The SPEAKER took the chair at twelve o'clock.


cuttingMr. DILLWYN moved for leave to bring in a bill to amend the act of 16 and 17 Vict., c. 30, for the better prevention and punishment of aggravated assault upon women. He said it would be in the recollection of hon. members that two years ago the attention of the house was directed to some barbarous assaults upon women which had been committed, and a bill was brought in to endeavour to put a stop to the commission of such crimes by passing an act imposing a penalty of a term of imprisonment not exceeding six months.

cuttingThe then member for Bath moved as an amendment that corporal punishment should be inflicted, but that amendment was lost by 101 to 50.

From returns which had been made it appeared that in 1854 there were 353 convictions under the act, while in 1855 there were 320; so that they had not much diminished.

He proposed to bring in a bill which should repeal the former bill, and re-enact it, with the exception of the second clause. He proposed to limit the term of imprisonment to two months, but not to be less than 14 days; he also proposed that the person convicted should be once privately whipped, and that the punishment should be inflicted in all cases. The hon. gentleman then read several cases which have recently been heard before the magistrates. Lengthened imprisonment had failed to put down the offence, and be believed that nothing would put it down except the infliction of corporal punishment.

Mr. BARROW said he should not oppose the introduction of the bill, but he thought they ought to have more experience of, and more information as to, the working of the last act before they applied corporal punishment.

Mr. BOUVERIE also should not object to the introduction of the bill, but he hoped the house would pause before they passed a bill re-introducing the whipping of adults in this country, which was totally contrary to the spirit of our legislation for a long series of years past. It was a punishment that could not be measured; if inflicted lightly, it was scarcely any punishment at all; and if inflicted heavily, it was torture. There was only one offence for which in recent years they had imposed the penalty of whipping, and that was for certain offences against her Majesty. They had had but little experience of the present act, and he trusted therefore that the hon. gentleman would not take it for granted that this bill would pass so readily through its other stages as the present.

Mr. W. WILLIAMS said they had almost every day in the newspapers details of this class of offences that were not only a disgrace to humanity, but a disgrace to this country. Large amounts and small amounts of imprisonment had all failed. The right honourable gentleman had referred to their having imposed the penalty of corporal punishment for the offence of attempting the life of her Majesty. That had completely stopped that offence. The right honourable gentleman said flogging was degrading, yet that was the punishment inflicted on our soldiers and sailors, and when attempts had been made to substitute some other punishment, they were always told that discipline could not be maintained without it. He knew nothing so likely to stop the committal of these offences as flogging the offenders.

Leave was then given to bring in the bill, and the House adjourned at 25 minutes to 4.

News of the World, London, 23 March 1856


Assaults on Women.

cuttingMr. Dillwyn proposes to whip brutes who commit savage assaults on women. Sentiment revolts; and so sensible a man as Mr. Bouverie objects to introducing into our criminal code a punishment so opposed to every sound principle of criminal jurisprudence; and in the very same breath he observes that the only case in which corporal punishment is authorised by law is that of assault upon her Majesty.

Well, is that against every sound principle of criminal jurisprudence? Or if the law be good enough for the protection of the first lady in the land, may it not be equally good for the humblest and lowliest?

The law in this instance is like the care of railways for safety, which is of two sorts, one for the public and another for her majesty when she travels. In vain have railway managers been asked why they do not take the same precautions for the public as for the sovereign. The frank answer would be, that the public safety is not worth the trouble and expense. Well, it is ruled good to whip a ruffian who assaults the Queen, and bad to whip a ruffian who kicks and cuffs a woman of lower estate.

And in the very same newspaper, in the parliamentary report of which we are brought to this conclusion of discriminating justice, we find an account of a trial of some big schoolboys for an assault, in the course of which the judge manifested some feelings by no means of the sentimental order.

A sickly boy at Tonbridge School, having been forbidden to play at cricket by his father, was ordered to the cricket ground to fag by his master. The boy pleaded the paternal prohibition. He was laid hold of and severely caned, some of the lads holding him while his tyrant belaboured him. That was not all; the maltreatment and its consequences made him late for school, and for this the master punished him as if it had been his own will and pleasure to be drubbed into a state of incapacity.

What said Baron Alderson? -- "If these sort of actions were encouraged, I am sure we might have 500 similar actions from Eton alone in the course of the year (a laugh). It is a pity he did not bear the beating as other boys generally do, and without crying out. -- Mr. James said, of course, the more he cried the more he got thrashed (a laugh).

Now we cannot see much difference between a supple cane and a whip, and we are at a loss to understand why chastisement with the one upon a lad old enough to bear her Majesty's commission is a thing to be laughed at, while the proposal of a punishment hardly of more severity upon a brute who has maltreated a woman is regarded with such disgust.

Mark how the mind of ingenuous youth is formed both by suffering and practising tyranny. The bully's willing assistants hold the object of displeasure while his master lays on the cane; and the judge on the bench, and a very able judge too, has no remark to make but that the sufferer, a weakly lad, should have borne the beating as other boys do, without crying or complaining.

But oh, if you proposed to put the same law on that athletic costermonger who has beaten his wife to jelly, how the sentiment of the country would rush to the rescue. Yet what is the essential difference? simply that between leather and wood.

The costermonger, it is true, is not a boy, neither is he a man. He is a brute, only amenable to the discipline controlling his savage mind. Let it be borne in mind that assaults on her Majesty were frequent before the punishment of whipping was awarded to the outrage, but since then there has not been one repetition of the offence.

There are people who say with Lord Palmerston, that if outrages upon women cannot be repressed by other means, they will, however reluctantly, consent to corporal punishment. But this is very bad reasoning. Corporal punishment is or is not calculated to prevent the offence; if it be, it should be adopted at once; if it be not, the failure of other means will not render it more suitable and effective.

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