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Judicial CP - January 1936

Leicester Mercury, 6 January 1936

From Court To The Whipping Post

Le'ster Recorder Orders Boy To Be Birched

Lad Who Associated With Older Youths In Shopbreaking

Others Bound Over


The Recorder, at Leicester Quarter Sessions this afternoon, ordered that a 15-year-old boy should be taken straight from the court and birched.

press cutting JOHN LESLIE SWINFIELD, aged 20, shop assistant; George Price, aged 17, fitting cutter, and a 15-year-old boy appeared before the Recorder (Mr. Paul E. Sandlands, K.C.) at Leicester Quarter Sessions to-day charged with breaking and entering on December 19th or 20th the shop of the London and Provincial Wine Co., Ltd., and stealing three bottles of whiskey and two bottles of cocktails.

There was a second charge of breaking and entering on December 22nd the dwelling-house of George Wilfred Roberts, and stealing a gold pocket watch, other articles, and 1s. 6d. in money, the property of George Wilfred Roberts and another.


Swinfield and Price were each bound over for two years.

To the 15-year-old boy, the Recorder said "I am going to deal with you as juvenile offenders ought to be dealt with more frequently than at present.

12 Strokes

"I remember some years ago hearing a superintendent of the police who met a responsible citizen on the station.

"The citizen said to the superintendent: 'I don't know whether you remember me, but when I was a boy I was thrashed by you for having done something wrong. I have never forgotten. I have gone straight ever since, and I can hold up my head.'

"I order you to receive 12 strokes of the birch," was the sentence of the Recorder.

He ordered the boy to be handed over to the police and the sentence to be carried out forthwith.

Leicester Evening Mail, 7 January 1936

The Voice of Leicester

Ethics Of Birching

To the Editor of the "Leicester Evening Mail"

SIR, -- The fact that a 15-year-old Leicester boy has been ordered to receive 12 strokes of the birch is certain to be the cause of much discussion. It draws attention to a state of affairs which has been frequently commented upon by magistrates in all parts of the country, and that is the prevalence to-day of juvenile crime.

Whether birching as a punishment for this type of crime is a sufficiently grave deterrent must be largely a question to be decided on the merits of individual cases.

There is a school of thought which heartily agrees with the adage concerning sparing the rod and spoiling the child, but, on the other hand, it is a moot point whether the modern generation is treated too lightly in some respects. If a birching results in a boy being set on the right road for life, then it is certainly a good thing.


Leicester Mercury, 7 January 1936

Is Birching for Boys Out of Date?

To the Editor of the Leicester Mercury

press cutting Sir, -- As a citizen of Leicester I enter my protest against the sentence given by the Recorder of 12 strokes of the birch to a boy of 15 years, as reported in the Mercury this evening.

Such punishment is out of date, and not accepted by some of our high experienced judges as the fair and only way of correcting and reforming boys who have recourse to crime.

There is some goodness in most of the young boys who start so early in life to rob in this way. For heaven's sake let us try something better than birching them to make them good and thoughtful citizens.

23, Avenue-road Extension, Leicester.


Sir, -- I would like to question the action of the Leicester Recorder to-day who, having three youths before him for doing wrong, bound over the elder two and ordered the younger one 12 strokes with the birch.

I do not infer that I would wish the three to be birched. But unless my brain is not working right, I ask, would it not have been better justice to have given even the younger one a chance to go straight without singling him out for this treatment?

My father in America was called a liar when he said boys were birched in England. I have it on good authority that birching embitters individuals against society. Better to study the causes and eliminate the effect. So, dear readers, please inform me if these birchings must go on.

10, Turner-street, Leicester.


Sir, -- Congratulations to our strong-minded Recorder upon his order of the birch yesterday.

There will, I suppose, be the usual uproar from those people who don't understand. Since the introduction of the Children and Young Persons Act, with its courts that must not look like courts, policemen who must not be seen in uniform, and mamby-pamby magistrates who pat heads and offer advice and cautions, the juvenile crime in this country has more than doubled itself.

Two-thirds of the crime in this country to-day is juvenile crime, and this city is suffering its full share.

Holmfield-road, Leicester.

Leicester Mercury, 8 January 1936

Sentence Not Yet Carried Out, But Appeal Unlikely

Recorder Replies To Critics of Birching

The Recorder of Leicester (Mr. P.E. Sandlands, K.C.), in an interview with the "Leicester Mercury" to-day, replied to the opposition which has been raised against his decision ordering 12 strokes of the birch for a 15-year-old boy.

press cutting SPEAKING to a reporter before sitting at the Leicester Quarter Sessions he said, "You can make it quite clear to those people writing to your paper that the birching must take place in the presence of the Medical Officer for the gaol, who must satisfy himself about the physical condition of the boy before, during and after the birching."

Mr. Sandlands, in sentencing the boy on Monday, ordered the birching to be carried out forthwith.

To-day he explained to the reporter that the term forthwith was a legal phrase, meaning that the sentence should be carried out as soon as was legally possible.

Opportunity for Appeal

An appeal could be lodged within ten days. No appeal against the sentence has yet been lodged, and it is understood that it is unlikely the boy's parents will appeal.

Should there be no appeal the sentence will be carried out on the eleventh day. The boy's parents will be warned to have the boy ready, and he will be called for by the police.

The last birching of a boy took place in Leicester before the war, and the Chief Constable of Leicester (Mr. O.J.B. Cole), who is responsible for the carrying out of the sentence, has had no experience of such a sentence during the time he has been Chief Constable in Leicester.

He will have to delegate an officer to carry out the sentence.

Birching of juvenile offenders has been looked upon in Leicester as out-of-date for so many years that the police have not a birch in their possession.

They will have to obtain one especially to carry out the sentence. The birch is administered on the boy's bare back [sic].

Leicester Evening Mail, 8 January 1936

"Evening Mail" Readers Discuss The Question:-

Is The Birch The Cure For Young Offenders?

The Voice of Leicester: Your Free Platform

To the Editor of the "Leicester Evening Mail"

SIR, -- The decision of the Leicester Recorder in ordering a boy of 15 to receive 12 strokes of the birch is likely to provoke a good deal of controversy. For the life of me I cannot understand why people object to corporal punishment.

If they know anything of schools they will understand that it is done quite regularly and has a salutary effect. When I was at school before the war my form master often gave the pupil the option of fifty lines or half-a-dozen strokes with a hefty ruler. I always chose the strokes. It was painful, but it was better than writing Latin for half-an-hour or so.

We are getting too soft-hearted about juvenile delinquencies. That is why there is so much petty crime being committed.

It is utterly useless talking to some boys. A sharp lesson is the only remedy. If some sentimentalists have their way I can see convicts living in convalescent homes with warders as waiters and entertainers.

Sparkenhoe-street, Leicester.


IF the views on birching of "Modern Parent" are typical, then I think the modern generation of children can count themselves extremely unlucky thus to fall between two stools of opinion.

"Modern Parent" does not seem quite to know his own mind. In my young days the boys knew that the penalty for wrongdoing in the home was a dose of the birch which used to hang behind the door.

The memory of that birch was often quite enough to prevent any mischief. It seems to me that the modern child has not much fear of the consequences of wrongdoing because he knows that indulgent parents and even indulgent magistrates will only read him a long lesson and let him off.

I am far from satisfied that our modern system of placing on probation is altogether the best one. Still, perhaps I am fit only to be regarded as

Evington-drive, Leicester.

Leicester Evening Mail, 9 January 1936

The Voice of Leicester

Spare The Rod?

To the Editor of the "Leicester Evening Mail"

MAY I say that I fully agree with the sentence of a birching imposed by the Recorder of Leicester on the young delinquent.

The old adage, "Spare the rod and spoil the child," is very true.

Take a look at our Juvenile Courts -- they are cluttered up with unrepentant offenders.

The bad boys only understand one thing, and that is physical punishment for wrongdoing. Teachers know that a caning is the best corrective for many children and have guided thousands on to the right path by the aid of the cane.



I WAS rather surprised to read that a boy had been sentenced to be birched. Surely, there must be another way of teaching him the right way to live?

Birching was the order in the olden days. Alas, have we to go back to those days again?

Granby-road, Leicester.

Leicester Mercury, 9 January 1936

Mother Declares His Statement Is Sheer Bravado: 'My Boy Is Not Strong'

Not Afraid Of Birch, Says Sentenced Lad

'But Wishes They'd Get On With It'

"I am not afraid of the birching, but I wish they'd get on with it." This declaration was made in an interview with the "Leicester Mercury" to-day, by the 15-year-old boy who was ordered to be birched by the Recorder of Leicester (Mr. P.E. Sandlands, K.C.).

SINCE the Recorder's decision there has been much opposition to such a sentence in the correspondence columns of the "Leicester Mercury."

The boy is a tall, good-looking lad, who had until Christmas been employed. To-day he has been out looking for work.

His home is in a good working class district, is clean and tidy, and well furnished.

Mother's Concern

In an interview his mother said:

"I am rather worried over this birching because I know my boy is not strong. I really think birching the wrong treatment for a boy, especially when he is temperamentally unused to it. My son is sensitive.

"When I have to reprimand him for anything he shivers all over. My eldest girl knows this, and doesn't like me to do it because it so affects him. I know he says 'I don't mind the birch,' but much of that is sheer bravado.

He was frightened when they brought him home, because he was asking the police sergeant if they rubbed salt in afterwards.

"It seems to have been forgotten that my boy is only 15, the other two boys were 20 and 17. Why, one was practically a man. Mine is not an easily led boy, but it is few boys of 15 who fail to be influenced by older boys.

Reason For Non-Appeal

"I am very glad to see the protests against the birching that have been published in the 'Leicester Mercury,' and I agreed with everything they said. I am afraid of him getting embittered by such a whipping.

"The result of these protests will probably mean that no other boys will be birched anyway.

"I do not want to appeal against the sentence, because I have been told that they might take him away instead, and I don't think he is strong enough for that."

"If the Recorder will take 12 strokes of the birch, I will take 12, and I am a man of 70," declared Mr. George E.S. Roberts, of 203, Melton-road, Leicester, formerly a chief officer R.N., who called at the "Leicester Mercury" Office to-day with reference to the sentence of birching, and the manner of its administration.

"It is a very drastic punishment to hit anyone above the hips. The boys so hit in the navy contracted disease of the bones. In the navy there was an order that the boys must not be birched from the hips upward.

Could Make a Birch

"The stroke of the birch should be a straight one, and not one that is downwards and across the body.

"This talk about the birch itself is 'all my eye.' I could make a birch in half-an-hour. There should be no prickles on the birch of buckthorn. It should be no longer than 24 inches," declared Mr. Roberts.

"I am going to the Lord Mayor and the Governor of Leicester Prison about this matter.

Mr. Roberts afterwards called to see the Clerk of the Peace (Mr. T.E. Toller) at the Leicester Quarter Sessions to-day, and ask that the punishment be administered properly.

He told the "Leicester Mercury" that as it was administered before flogging was abolished in the navy, more or less all the boys who received it had to go to hospital for treatment. Afterwards in many cases they were invalided out of the Service.

The "Leicester Mercury" learns that in the case of the boy sentenced by the Recorder, the birch will be administered on the seat.

Leicester Mercury, 9 January 1936

Misapplied Leniency


To the Editor of the Leicester Mercury

Sir, -- H.E. says: "Kindness might save; birching never." Most certainly that is so in many cases; but it is leniency misapplied that has filled every approved school and reform institution in the country to a point of crowding at which the staff cannot give proper attention to the work they are supposed to perform.


Why all this horror because a youth is to be birched? If he had the fortune to be at a public school he could get that and a lot more from a prefect for no greater offence than slacking at games. We are getting too theoretical; and those who will suffer most and longest will be the subjects of this sentimentality.


Leicester Evening Mail, 10 January 1936

Urgent Telegram To Sir John Simon

Leicester Call For Inquiry Into Birching Sentence On Boy Of 15

10 Days Must Elapse Before Sentence Is Carried Out

Labour Criticism

Punishment Described As "A Relic Of Barbarism"


SIR JOHN SIMON, the Home Secretary, has been asked to hold an inquiry into the birching sentence passed on a 15-year-old Leicester boy by the Recorder, Mr. Paul E. Sandlands, at Leicester Quarter Sessions on Monday. The boy was sentenced to 12 strokes when accused with two older boys of breaking into two houses and a wine shop.

It is the first time such a sentence has been passed in Leicester since before the war and there has been considerable public agitation against it. Many readers have protested against it in letters to the "Leicester Evening Mail," and further letters appear in Page Eight.

The request for an inquiry was made to-day by Mr. C.A. Newport, a former Liberal member of Leicester City Council, and it is backed up by a strong resolution of protest passed unanimously by the Leicester Labour Party delegate meeting last night.

The birching cannot be carried out until 10 days have elapsed from the date of sentence.

Mr. Newport wired: "Request immediate inquiry Leicester Recorder's flogging sentence on young boy, view remission. Newport, Liberal Club, Leicester."

The Labour Party's resolution has been sent to the Home Secretary, the Lord Chancellor -- Lord Hailsham -- and to all the local Members of Parliament.


Leicester Evening Mail, 11 January 1936

The Voice Of Leicester

Birched At 13

To the Editor of the "Leicester Evening Mail"

IT has been stated that no case of birching has occurred in Leicester since before the war.

I beg to contradict this. My son, at the age of 13 years, was birched in 1917.


Leicester Mercury, 13 January 1936

Mr. Nicolson Tells Of His Own Experience

Leicester M.P. And Birching Sentence

J.P. Suggests Raising Appeal Fund: Mother Willing To Take Case Further If Financed

"THAT a boy of 15 should be birched for a minor offence seems to me to be wholly indefensible and most uncivilised."

Thus writes Mr. Harold Nicolson, M.P. for Leicester West, in reply to a communication from the Leicester Labour Party.

A LEICESTER magistrate who is a leading figure in the public life of the city, suggested to-day that a fund should be opened to raise money for an appeal against the Leicester Recorder's sentence of twelve strokes of the birch for a 15-year-old Leicester boy. He, himself, is willing to subscribe £5.

The boy's mother, when informed of this, said she was willing to appeal, if a fund covered the expenses.

"It is branding the boy for life, and I am certain it will have a very detrimental effect," said the magistrate.

"I have heard of a number of people," he added, "who would be willing to subscribe towards an appeal."

The Leicester Labour Party, who protested to the Home Secretary against the birching, has received a reply intimating that the matter would receive the attention of Sir John Simon.

The Leicester Labour Party also circularised the Leicester Members of Parliament asking them to intervene. Mr. Harold Nicolson, M.P. for Leicester West, has sent the following reply to Mr. W. Howard, secretary of the Leicester Labour Party:

Nicholson mugshot "Dear Mr. Howard, -- .... I wish to consult you about this case of the boy who has been condemned to 12 strokes of the birch.

"I understand from the 'Leicester Mercury' that the other two older boys were merely bound over, and that the boy who was sentenced was the youngest of the three. I also gather from a statement made by the boy's mother that she is unwilling to appeal against the sentence, for fear that it may lead to the boy being taken away, by which I suppose she means being sent to Borstal.

"I also gather from the Leicester papers that there is considerable local indignation and that steps have been taken to secure that the sentence, if carried out, is carried out as humanely as possible.

"In these circumstances, I am not quite clear as to whether I can properly take any action. Perhaps you will allow me to explain my point of view.

Himself Publicly Birched

"I am not in principle opposed to corporal punishment, especially when exercised upon the bodies of the rich. I was myself publicly birched once for breaking bounds and having an enormous tea at the Hotel Metropole in Folkestone.

"In addition to this I was caned for various offences some 20 times during my school career. The physical pain occasioned by these punishments was only transitory, whereas there was no moral stigma or humiliation at all. One regarded the experience as a test of physical courage, and if one was able to stand the punishment without whimpering one was regarded as something of a hero, both by the boys and the masters.

"On the other hand I am perfectly prepared to believe that corporal punishment is a bad thing, not so much from the point of view of the victim as from the point of view of the person who administers that punishment. I recognise that the fact that I myself never noticed any form of sadism in masters or prefects does not mean that such pleasure in cruelty does not exist in other cases.

'Most Uncivilised'

"I recognise also that there is an enormous difference between the boy who is beaten at school under the general code there established and the boy who is beaten by the sentence of the court.

"The essential test is, to my mind, not so much the amount of physical pain which is caused but the amount of moral humiliation which is felt.

"In certain cases (i.e., white slave traffic and possibly blackmail), I do not regard such humiliation as a wholly uncivilised thing, but that a boy of 15 should be birched for a minor felony seems to me wholly indefensible and most uncivilised.

"Thus, in this present case, I should like to do everything possible to save the boy from this sentence, and my only fear is that our intervention may, in the end, do more harm than good.

"If, in fact, the alternative to birching is being sent to Borstal, I should much rather, were the boy my own son, that he were birched than that he were exposed to the associations and stigma of a Borstal period.

"The boy's parents and friends may take the same view, and I think we should be acting wrongly if, for reasons of principle, we acted in a specific case in a manner which was not in the ultimate interests of the victim."

Leicester Mercury, 14 January 1936

Chief Constable Requested To Suspend Carrying Out Of Sentence

Leicester Birching Protests Lead To Home Office Inquiry

South Leicester M.P. Thinks Recorder Was In Best Position To Judge


A "Leicester Mercury" reporter to-day spoke to an official at the Home Office regarding the suspension of the sentence of 12 strokes of the birch on a 15-year-old Leicester boy, and was told that the request to the Chief Constable of Leicester to suspend the carrying out of the sentence had been made following the many protests received from Leicester.

THE suspension has been ordered pending a Home Office inquiry. "No arrangements have yet been made to call an inquiry," the official said. "It will certainly not be a public inquiry.

"Undoubtedly the Recorder of Leicester will be communicated with and a shorthand note of the trial at the Quarter Sessions and the depositions of the police court proceedings will probably be obtained.

"Yes, it might be necessary to see the boy."


Captain Waterhouse's View

The following letter has been sent by Captain Charles Waterhouse, M.P. for South Leicester, to Mr. W. Howard, secretary of the Leicester Labour Party, in reply to his request for his intervention:

".... I must say at once that I am not averse in principle to corporal punishment in proper cases either for juveniles or for adults.

"Whether or not it is a relic of barbarism I am not prepared to argue. Our real concern is that the punishment in any particular case should be designed to correct the offender and to deter him from repeating the offence.

"A wise man, be he schoolmaster or magistrate, treats every juvenile offender as an individual, and deals with him in the way in which, to the best of his judgment, he believes most likely to attain these ends.

Not Impressed

"The Recorder of Leicester is learned and experienced. He has had the boy before him, and has heard the evidence. It seems to me, therefore, that he is in a far better position to judge how to treat him than we are, and it would, in my view, be most unfortunate if sentiment or abstract theory were allowed to prevent an action which would be to the boy's ultimate benefit.

"I am not at all impressed with the suggestion that the infliction of such punishment would be degrading to the man who wields the rod. No task, however unpleasant, can degrade if its infliction is an honourable duty."


Daily Mail, London, 15 January 1936

"Cruel for Boy of 15"

Mother on Flogging Sentence

Police Do Not Possess a Birch

From a Woman Correspondent

LEICESTER, Tuesday. -- A YOUNG-LOOKING woman, the mother of four children, is waiting at home in a narrow street in Leicester to hear what the Home Office decides to do in the matter of punishing her 15-years-old son.

The boy was sentenced by the Recorder of Leicester (Mr. Paul E. Sandlands, K.C.), at the quarter sessions last week, to 12 strokes of the birch for house-breaking in the company of two youths of 19 and 21, but last night the city police here were instructed by the Home Secretary, Sir John Simon, not to take any action, pending investigation by the Home Office.

Meanwhile the police are a little worried at finding themselves the executioners of such a sentence, for there has not been a flogging in Leicester for more than 20 years, and they do not possess such a thing as a birch!

The case has raised a storm of indignation locally.

Sentence Criticised

Since the boy's mother, who has no money to finance an appeal, sent a telegram for help to Mr. A.M. Lyons, M.P. for East Leicester, there has been much criticism of the severity of the sentence -- especially in view of the fact that the two older youths were only bound over.


This afternoon the mother sat alone by the fire worrying and wondering, while her son, who has lost his first job as a result of the case, was out in the foggy half darkness looking for another.

The mother is a small, pretty woman, who has brought up her four children single-handed, keeps her home shining with warmth and brightness, and helps to support it by doing piece work at home for a Leicester factory.

Mother's loss of sleep

"What do you think will happen to my boy?" she said. "I have been so worried ever since he was sentenced to a flogging that I have not slept more than two hours in a night.

"If they'd birched him right away when they sentenced him it wouldn't have been so bad; it's the suspense that's so awful, especially with all the people who know about it giving me horrible details of what the flogging will be like.

"He is a good, affectionate lad at home. The trouble is he reads nothing but these exciting adventure stories" -- she waved her hand towards a pile of twopenny novels stacked carefully in a corner -- "and when he does these silly things with older boys I really think it's because it makes him feel a bit of a hero.

"I talked to him alone, and I'm quite sure now he realises the seriousness of what he has done.

"It seemed a cruel sentence to me for a little lad like him."

Leicester Evening Mail, 17 January 1936

Telegram Of Thanks To M.P.

Mother's Joy At Remission Of Birching Sentence On Leicester Boy

Gratitude For "Evening Mail" Assistance

Ten-Day Ordeal Ended


A Leicester mother, tears of joy glistening in her eyes, to-day found peace for the first time for more than a week. Her 15-year-old son has been relieved from the sentence of 12 strokes of the birch imposed by the Leicester Recorder at the Quarter Sessions last week. Thus ends for the mother ten nightmare days and nights.

Boy Happily At Work

LAST night the "Leicester Evening Mail" made the exclusive announcement that the Home Secretary, with the concurrence of the Leicester Recorder, Mr. Paul E. Sandlands, had remitted the birching sentence, and the good news was immediately passed on to the mother by a "Leicester Evening Mail" representative.

Lyons mugshotThe mother was so overjoyed that she almost broke down under the reaction, after the strain she had undergone since the sentence was passed.

"Words fail me," she said brokenly. "I feel so happy that my son has not to undergo the ordeal, and so grateful to everyone who has worked so unselfishly on my behalf -- Mr. A.M. Lyons, K.C., M.P. for East Leicester, the Hon. Harold Nicolson, M.P. for West Leicester, the organisations who have pressed for the reprieve, and the 'Leicester Evening Mail' for its wonderful efforts on behalf of my son and myself."

Home Secretary's Order

As exclusively stated in the "Leicester Evening Mail" on Monday, the mother last week-end telegraphed to Mr. Lyons and asked him to intercede with the authorities on behalf of her son.


Mr. Lyons and Mr. Nicolson then collaborated in the matter, and both visited the Home Office yesterday.


M.P.'s Special Journey

The "Leicester Evening Mail" is now able to reveal that this week Mr. Nicolson made a special journey to Leicester and interviewed the mother and the 15-year-old boy.

On Wednesday a public-spirited Leicester citizen, with the co-operation of the "Leicester Evening Mail," offered the boy employment at his factory, and the boy is now happily at work again.


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