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Judicial CP - April 1959


The New York Times, 26 April 1959

Caning At Issue In South Africa

But Sentiment is Against Screams of Prisoners, Not the Punishment

By Milton Bracker
Special to the New York Times

CAPETOWN, South Africa, April 25 -- Judicial caning of offenders, down to 8-year-old boys, has been a recurrent issue in the Union of South Africa for several weeks.

But the controversies it has stirred do not stem primarily from general public abhorrence of the idea of corporal punishment. A more common attitude seems to be that strikes with a cane are an unpleasant aspect of legal discipline but a justifiable one.

The matter drew renewed attention this week when the police took steps to assure that the cries of prisoners being beaten in a midtown headquarters would no longer upset women employees in near-by office buildings.

Sentences of up to ten cuts with a cane are imposed in a magistrates court four blocks from the city's main thoroughfare. The central police barracks on Caledon Square are right across the street from the court.

On Wednesday, business executives in near-by buildings said the sound of the cane blows and the reaction of the prisoners were "upsetting" women employees.

"We can clearly hear the swish and smack of the cane and the pleadings and screams of people being beaten," one manager said.

"I don't doubt that these punishments are well deserved, but I feel the place for them should be anywhere but in the center of a city business area."

Another man said that his conversations with important clients had been interrupted by the "howling of somebody being thrashed."

But the core of the matter, agreement that caning was proper, was expressed by one of the women employees.

"I sympathize with the police," she said. "It cannot be nice to have to deal out these beatings. But I wish we didn't have to listen to it."

The police announced yesterday that in future canings would be shifted to a basement in the same police station, subject to the approval of medical authorities.

Case has repercussions

Recently a caning case involving three young Dutch immigrants in Pretoria had international repercussions. The Netherlands press took up the matter, which involved three brothers, aged 9, 10 and 15, found guilty of the theft of nine bottles of soft drink. The younger boys got four strokes each and the oldest received six.

The reaction in the Netherlands induced the South African Embassy in The Hague to distribute the official version of what had happened. This included a statement by the boys' mother that she was satisfied with the magistrate's finding.

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