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UK Boys' Reformatories

'Injustice at Court Lees'

A riposte to the Gibbens report from the staff point of view



APPROVED SCHOOLS GAZETTE, November 1967

Speech made by Frank Ebert, Hon. Secretary, South East Branch, The Association of Headmasters, Headmistresses and Matrons of Approved Schools, at Special General Meeting held at Hamilton House, London, on 17th October 1967.

I SPEAK as the colleague nominated by Mr Haydon to act as his "friend", a nomination approved by your Executive. If, therefore, my remarks deal almost exclusively with Mr Haydon's position it is not because I am unmindful of the wider issues or unsympathetic towards the boys, staff and managers of Court Lees all, unfairly and unnecessarily, adversely affected by the injustice of the Home Secretary's hasty action. My concern is that, unless we take strong measures to prevent it, the man, and in my view the only man, who on 6th February will be without job, home and money is Mr Haydon.

Why is he in this position? Why is the Home Secretary at present adamant Mr Haydon must lose his job? Why has he gone further and intimated he could not support his retention within the residential child care service? Let us examine the facts.

Mr Haydon is a man whose character, ability and experience led to him becoming, with active Home Office support, the headmaster of the largest approved school in this country -- and that as recently as 1st January this year. He brought new drive and zest to the school. Managers and Home Office were well satisfied with their choice. The staff, minus only Mr Cook, stated in a Press Release on 1st September: "We enjoy working with Mr Haydon, who has earned, receives and appreciates our loyalty. Under his inspiring leadership the school was becoming increasingly stimulating and successful, a fact realised and appreciated by the boys and their parents, many of whom were very distressed at the closure."

Compare the record of Mr Haydon with that of Mr Cook, a man the Home Secretary, for motives not easily understandable by me, insisted should be retained. Accept Mr Gibbens' assessment of character and ask on those grounds who should go?

Mr Gibbens "found Mr Cook a complex character: obviously very emotional and intense, apt to exaggerate greatly, sometimes irresponsible in his behaviour, and possessed by a burning conviction that he is the only person who understands the boys with compassion and who is devoted to their interests. I believe that (perhaps to some extent unintentionally) he has set himself up as the boys' champion against the senior staff. He was clearly at odds with most of the staff, particularly with Mr Fidoe, Mr Garlick, Mr Draycon and Mr Haydon, who regarded him as emotionally unstable. There is ample reason for thinking that Mr Cook's belief that he could not get on with Mr Haydon springs from jealousy due to the failure of his application for the post of headmaster on the retirement of Mr Fidoe. I think that Mr Cook's evidence is chiefly suspect on the grounds of exaggeration and that it is seasoned with a certain amount of malice to those men who are, or who have been, his superior."

Of Mr Haydon, Mr Gibbens says: "As a witness he appeared honest and candid, making no attempt to avoid difficult matters which he was required to explain." .. . "in the second published letter Mr Cook asserted that Mr Haydon "is basically a kindly man" and, despite the conclusions stated below, I believe that to be true, both of him and of Mr Fidoe."

Mr Cook's letters to the Guardian, full of exaggerations and inaccuracies, did tremendous harm to the image of our service. How shocked was he by the alleged brutal beatings? Certainly not shocked enough to use the many avenues by which he could have made a legitimate complaint. He knew the Home Office would "dearly love to know the name of my school". "They shall not have it", he wrote. . . "my name and address are not for publication. My fears over the loss of my house if I were identified ... are very real ones." All the terrible things of which Mr Cook complained could presumably continue, so far as he was concerned, until the day he retired, so long as he kept his house.

Mr Cook fought to the last to maintain his anonymity. The Report makes it clear that only after the school had been identified and inspectors had discovered it was Mr Cook who took the photographs, did he go to the Home Office. He was forced, I submit, into a position where he had no option but to attempt to justify his allegations. Was ever an Enquiry set up on such unsatisfactory foundations?

Professional people will readily understand the insistence of the Managers that they could not retain Mr Cook. How can the Home Secretary justify his retention? What future does the Home Secretary himself see for Mr Cook? What staff will work with him? Be that as it may, Mr Jenkins says Cook must stay; Haydon must go. Why?

Mr Jenkins says that Mr Haydon has been found guilty of five breaches of the approved school rules. They are:

1. Contravention of Rule 34(iv) which provides that every effort should be made to enforce discipline without resort to corporal punishment. Mr Haydon denies he is guilty of such contravention, quoting, for example, that Boy No. 8, a case specifically mentioned by Mr Gibbens, absconded three times before being caned, whilst Boy No. 20 absconded eight times before being caned. Mr Haydon is criticised, under this heading, for caning boys on their return from absconding and for normally giving six strokes. Neither practice is in breach of any approved school rule.

2. Mr Haydon used a cane of a type not authorised by the Secretary of State (Contrary to Rule 35(a)). Mr Haydon admits this. He used the canes in use at the school when he took over. Mr Gibbens himself says "it was not unreasonable of him to assume the canes he took over at the school on assuming office were properly authorised canes". It is significant too that the relevant Home Office Inspector agreed at the Inquiry that, in the course of his duties he had seen the canes used and had not appreciated they were not the approved type. The cane was thicker, but only minimally so, than those normally approved. It was debatable whether they would hurt more although they might cause more bruising.

Mr Haydon's unintentional error was regrettable but understandable, and he alone was not to blame.

3. Mr Haydon is criticised in that he "has frequently caned boys after withdrawing their shirts from their trousers". Mr Gibbens implies this is in contravention of Rule 35(c) which stipulates the cane should be applied over the boy's ordinary cloth trousers. Few Heads, I submit, would agree with Mr Gibbens that Mr Haydon was wrong to withdraw the shirt. Indeed, since our lads are not unaware of the possible consequences of their misbehaviour, withdrawal of the shirt might be deemed a necessary precaution. The Rule states caning should be over a boy's ordinary cloth trousers. It does not stipulate it must also be over shirt and presumably pants. One could argue pyjamas and P.T. shorts were ordinary cloth trousers. It is all a matter of interpretation. Ordinary cloth in 1933, when the rules were written, could have a different connotation in 1967.

Would man-made fibre, widely worn today, be classed as ordinary cloth? In any case there is no evidence that Mr Haydon caned over anything other than the boys' day cloth trousers. There is absolutely no evidence in the Report of his breaking Rule 35(c).

4. Para. 78(h) states: "Mr Fidoe, Mr Draycon and Mr Haydon have on many occasions failed to record corporal punishments in the Punishment Book. There is no acceptable evidence to refute Mr Haydon's categorical denial of this allegation. Indeed, the only evidence offered is contained in para 72(b) which must surely rank as one of the most amazing paragraphs ever to appear in a legal document. It states: "(b) Mr David Ellison (supra), the housemaster of Gillum House recalls that he was present on an occasion early in 1967 when Mr Haydon caned a boy, who was not a member of Gillum House, late at night. He remembers that he was the only witness present and that the boy received six strokes on his posterior. Mr Haydon honestly does not remember ever caning a boy in the presence of Mr Ellison, but although Mr Ellison does not remember the exact date or the name of the boy concerned I am convinced by his evidence that such an event did happen. There is no record in the punishment book of any caning attended by Mr Ellison, so unless someone falsely signed as witness there must have been a failure by Mr Haydon to record the incident". That is the only allegation made against Mr Haydon of not properly recording punishments, a fact made clear by Mr Gibbens in para 73.

Is para 72(b) really acceptable? Could not Mr Ellison, who had never previously witnessed a caning, be reasonably expected to remember the name of the only boy he had ever seen caned and the date of such a caning? Or if he had forgotten couldn't he have found out?

I submit Mr Haydon is clearly not guilty of not properly recording punishments,

5. Mr Haydon in four instances has caned boys with excessive severity. Mr Gibbens states "the approved school rules do not attempt to describe the amount of force which may be used when administering corporal punishment, but of course the Common Law governs this. The Common Law rule is that corporal punishment is lawful only if it is moderate in manner, quantity and severity, and I consider that a breach of that rule could be within the Terms of Reference". If that is so two obvious questions arise:

(a) Why are no steps taken by the Home Office to inform Heads and Deputies of the Common Law governing corporal punishment?

(b) If Mr Gibbens is intimating that on four occasions Mr Haydon was guilty of a breach of Common Law why was he not dealt with under the Law?

The following factors should be taken into account:

(i) The eminent medical witnesses themselves disagreed as to the severity of the punishments shown on the colour transparencies and only in the case of Boy No. 2 did all four agree the injuries were outside the limits of normal caning by schoolmasters. It is relevant that since the Inquiry Mr Johnson, Horticultural Instructor at the school for 13 years, has testified he saw the posterior of the boy in question shortly after the caning and that the markings were normal and unlike those on the photograph in question. Other boys have also given similar evidence. What is the Home Secretary's reaction to this testimony? Should this or any other colour transparency be accepted as valid?

(ii) Why are there no observations on the opinions given on the photographs by the School Doctor and Dr Fleming of the Home Office?

(iii) The boys concerned were examined by the School Doctor and Dr Fleming on 6th and 7th May, one month after the canings. Despite Mr Cook's statement concerning bruising still visible six weeks after caning, no marks were found on any boy.

(iv) No colour transparency was ever positively identified. It would have been easy for Mr Cook to make them identifiable. Why didn't he?

(v) If Mr Cook wished to prove the severity of the punishment why did he tell the boys concerned not to show the marks to anyone?

(vi) If Mr Cook was opposed to corporal punishment why did he take boys to the office demanding they be caned?

(vii) Mr Haydon asserts that he has never caned maliciously or with excessive severity. It is significant that no boy or parent made any complaint of excessive punishment, though parental visits were permitted more frequently than at most schools. Neither did the school doctor, who examined all boys regularly, ever notice anything calling for complaint.

(viii) All the canings were properly witnessed and recorded. The witnesses in each case were experienced and reliable members of staff all of whom state the canings were normal.

Mr Gibbens accepts (para 50) that Mr Haydon has never inflicted more than six strokes although the permitted maximum for boys over 15 is eight, or 12 exceptionally. Mr Gibbens asserts few people can say what marks are created on buttocks after a properly moderate caning. This is nonsense. Most headmasters and staff can. A controlled experiment would show that different boys caned equally would all mark differently. Heads know this. Why were none called to give evidence? As corporal punishment has always been permitted in approved schools surely the Home Office and school doctors have ample evidence of the effects of caning. The intention of corporal punishment is to hurt. If it hurts it marks. If the Home Secretary finds this unacceptable he should ban it.

I have tried to give an honest assessment of the findings against Mr Haydon. If guilty at all how guilty is he? I submit that if he was guilty on all five counts his dismissal would still be unjustifiable. But he is not so guilty.

Others will have stated the unsatisfactory nature of the Inquiry. I would only remind you that the Treasury Solicitor stated categorically "no one is in the dock at this enquiry". He told Mr Gibbens "no disciplinary consequence would follow or could properly follow automatically upon your report ... the matter would have to be investigated subsequently . . . and gone into and there would be the opportunity of defence and so forth given". The Home Secretary has completely disregarded this submission of the Treasury Solicitor. Sentence was passed with the publication of the Report. Justice was neither done nor seen to be done.

May I, Mr President, add a few concluding remarks.

The support afforded Mr Haydon by his Managers and Staff has been altogether admirable. They know his worth. Their loyalty is a tribute to him and themselves.

Let us as an Association once more pay tribute to the tremendous assistance already given by the N.U.T. who, with the N.A.S. are united in opposition to the Home Secretary's actions. Indeed the unanimous view of all who have studied this case is that a great injustice is being done.

Let us pay tribute to Mr Haydon himself. Throughout he has played the man. He held control firmly before and during the enquiry and even when seeing his boys so hastily despatched elsewhere. Surely he could have been spared the extra difficulty of keeping his school going with Mr Cook still present. Why were the Managers not permitted to suspend Cook? Throughout the inquiry Mr Haydon acted calmly, professionally and honourably, concerned more with his boys and staff than with his own difficulties. Indeed he has acted as only a man with a clear conscience could.

Mr Jeremy Thorpe said recently: "The way in which evil will prosper is for good men to do nothing". We have plenty we must do. That is why we are here. First I suggest we must say to Mr Haydon -- and mean it: "We, your colleagues support you and will not let you down". Then I favour one more immediate direct approach to the Home Secretary seeking, if need be demanding, a last opportunity to negotiate. And before this meeting ends we should have plans made for such militant action as may become necessary.


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