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Reformatory CP - August 1967

Corpun file 19442


The Times, London, 8 August 1967

School to close after caning

By Norman Fowler

Mr E.B. Gibbens QCThe Home Secretary has ordered the closing of Court Lees Approved School, near Godstone, Surrey, after a report which finds that boys there were caned with "excessive severity".

Immediately the decision was announced yesterday the school's board of managers called it a "gross injustice". The Association of Heads of Approved Schools protested that the inquiry did not justify the closure.

Although Mr. Jenkins does not intend to abolish corporal punishment he has sent a directive to managers of all approved schools asking them to review its use in their schools and report back to the Home Office by the end of October. He also intends to seek new ways of controlling difficult behaviour.

In the report on the school Mr. E.B. Gibbens, Q.C., Recorder of Oxford, found that on four occasions earlier this year the headmaster of Court Lees caned boys with "excessive severity". He also found that since 1961 an unauthorized and larger type of cane had been used at the school.

Press cutting -- CLICK TO ENLARGE -- Image will open in a new windowAlthough the board of governors do not challenge the findings, they say that such a drastic step as withdrawal of a school's certificate of approval could be justified only after a full-scale inquiry into every aspect of the school. They said: "The Home Secretary is committing the very error which he rightly condemns, inflicting far too severe a punishment and, in this case, a punishment falling on the totally innocent."

I understand that Mr. Jenkins was extremely reluctant to take the step of closure. He had first thought the problem could be solved by removing the headmaster and deputy headmaster from the school, and by including some local authority representatives on the board of management.

'Phasing out' caning

The power of dismissal lies with the board, and they particularly dug in their heels over the removal of the headmaster, Mr. D. Haydon. At the same time, they wanted to see Mr. I.R.W. Cook, the teacher whose allegations first started the inquiry, removed from the school. This last move the Home Office found unacceptable.

All the boys will be moved from the school by the end of August and all 50 staff will be given six months' notice. It is hoped that the school will reopen at the beginning of the new year under local authority control and that most of the staff will be re-employed.

Commenting on the wider questions raised by the case, Mr. Jenkins said in a statement that it had to be recognized that the behaviour of some young people in approved schools posed exceptional problems for the staff.

Mr. Jenkins said professional and other associations would be asked to give advice on other methods of dealing with these people.

"The aim will be to phase out the use of corporal punishment as quickly and as completely as possible. Amendment of the approved school rules could then follow to give formal recognition to an accomplished fact."

Mr. Jenkins made it clear that he sees the long-term solution as a breaking down of the approved school system altogether and its replacement by a comprehensive system of residential child care establishments. This policy follows the proposals in The child, the family and the young offender and is likely to be brought forward by the Government in the autumn of next year.


Daily Telegraph, London, 8 August 1967

'Caning' school is shut by Jenkins

Punishment of boys "excessive"

By our Political Staff

MR. JENKINS, Home Secretary, has ordered Court Lees, near Godstone, Surrey, the county's largest approved school, to be closed.

Press cuttingHis action follows an inquiry into allegations of irregular and excessive corporal punishment at the school. In a statement published with the report, Mr. Jenkins said he intended "to phase out the use of corporal punishment as quickly and as completely as possible."

Unofficial estimates suggest this might take a few years.

The Home Secretary hopes the school will be quickly reconstituted under local authority management. Home Office inspectors begin today to supervise dispersal of the 120 boys and expect to complete their task by the end of the month.

Mr. Jenkins acted on powers under the 1933 Young Persons Act to withdraw the school's certificate of approval. The decision was described by the school's board of management, headed by Judge Arthur Cohen, as a "gross injustice."

Excessive force

Unauthorised cane

Mr E.B. Gibbens, Q.C., was asked to conduct an inquiry after allegations that severe punishment was common in approved schools, particularly at Court Lees. Photographs were sent to the Home Office. Mr. Gibbens found that:

  • The cane was used freely, sometimes as the first punishment;

  • An unauthorised cane had been used, half an inch in diameter, as against the size of about ¼ inch approved by the Home Secretary;

  • Excessive force had been used in caning three boys, and in one case it was greatly excessive.

Severe injuries

Medical agreement

Eminent medical witnesses, Prof. Keith Simpson, Dr. Donald Teare and Dr. David Paul, were unanimous in saying that the photograph of one boy showed injuries of "quite unusual severity."

If cases such as two of the boys had been brought to them in their hospitals, they would have called for an investigation by the police.

Mr. Gibbens found that during the headmasterships of both Mr. J. Fidoe, who retired in 1966, and Mr. D. Haydon, canes of a type not authorised by the Home Office were habitually used.

Mr. R.W. Draycon, deputy headmaster, had once caned a boy who was not wearing his ordinary cloth trousers.

After the "phasing out" of corporal punishment, approved school rules could be amended to give formal recognition to an accomplished fact.

Mr. Jenkins is to invite the people principally concerned to join with the Home Office Children's Department in developing alternative methods and in spreading knowledge of the methods through the approved school services.

In the meantime he is asking managers to review the use of corporal punishment. It will be stressed that, if used at all, corporal punishment should be a last resort.

Fresh start

School's setback

As soon as there is Parliamentary time the Government will integrate the school within a comprehensive system of residential child-care establishments. The intention is to end their isolation.

In his statement Mr. Jenkins said: "While I was impressed by their desire to continue the school under its present organisation as an act of public service, I was not convinced, particularly in regard to staff changes, they fully appreciated the implications of the report or that the school could surmount this setback without a completely fresh start."

Mr. Jenkins met seven or eight of the 13 managers, led by the chairman, Judge Cohen, at the Home Office on Sunday. The unusual timing was apparently because it was thought Judge Cohen would be engaged in the courts on other days.

What happened at the two-hour meeting is not fully known, but it seems certain the disagreement was over the future of Mr. Haydon.

In view of the report, Mr. Jenkins must have felt that neither the head nor deputy could continue in their jobs. The inference can be drawn from Mr. Jenkins's statement that the managers were reluctant to approve the dismissal of the headmaster.

Another conclusion which might be drawn is that the managers were anxious that Mr I.R.W. Cook, the assistant teacher who drew attention to the canings, first anonymously, should be dismissed.

The matter first received publicity through a letter written to the Guardian by Mr. Cook.


Daily Telegraph, London, 8 August 1967

Penalty on school "too severe"

By Guy Rais

SHORTLY after the Home Secretary, Mr. Jenkins, announced the withdrawal of the licence to Court Lees approved school, South Godstone, Surrey, a statement by the board of management, headed by Judge Arthur Cohen, described it as "too severe a punishment."

The board stated that they wished to take the earliest opportunity of protesting at the "gross injustice of the decision."

The inquiry had involved allegations against a relatively small number of past and present members of the staff "some of which were substantiated and some dismissed," said the board.

So drastic a step as the withdrawal of the licence could be justified only after a public inquiry "with the widest possible terms of reference which the board would welcome," they added.

The inquiry followed complaints by Mr. I.R.W. Cook, a teacher at the school, who had alleged excessive brutality in caning some of the boys, whose ages range from 13 to 15.

Before the report was made public, Mr. Sidney Gwynn, Deputy Chief Inspector of the Children's Department at the Home Office, drove to the school, where he spent nearly two hours with a number of the 40 members of the staff, explaining their position in the light of the reports and its recommendations.

Copies of the report were available for the staff to read. Among those present at the meeting was the headmaster, Mr. D. Haydon, who, the report stated, "caned four boys with excessive severity."

Mr. Haydon declined to comment on the report or its findings, stating he would be seeing counsel to discuss his position.

Mr. Gwynn would not comment on who would be reinstated if the school continued, but it would seem that only those members of the staff not directly involved in the inquiry would be eligible.

Some may be transferred to other approved schools where there may be a shortage of staff through the movement of so many boys within a comparatively short period.

During the next six months the staff will be free to apply for other jobs and they will also be allowed to reapply for positions at the school if and when it reopens under the local authority's jurisdiction, as suggested in the report.


Staff at the school were bewildered last night as they discussed the aspects of the report and the closure order.

Mr. George Newmark, a house master for the past nine years, said: "The beatings, if anything, were on the mild side. There have been no excesses, as the report stated."

Mr. Leslie Thompson, 45, senior assistant at Court Lees, said last night: "It came as an absolute bombshell to all the teaching staff present when the Home Office representative said the Home Secretary had decided to close the school."


Daily Telegraph, London, 8 August 1967


Unspared rods

IT is hard for the outsider to deduce from the careful words of Mr. Gibbens's admirable report exactly how far the Court Lees approved school has erred in its use of corporal punishment. If, as Mr. Gibbens contends, the régime there was, in this respect, much the same as that prevailing at most public schools up until 1945, "old-fashioned" rather than brutal would seem to be the right word for it, though, in a few specific instances, a stronger adjective seems to be indicated.

cuttingWhat is certain is that once the staff of a school has been thus publicly arraigned -- even if the offences proved are only moderate -- the case for a change of headmaster becomes strong. If the school concerned is a semi-penal establishment, not voluntarily patronised by either parents or pupils, it may be right to close it, disperse its inmates and start again from scratch.

Unfortunately, but characteristically, Mr. Roy Jenkins has used the occasion to disgorge another stream of pious and complacent advice about the need to "phase out" corporal punishment in all approved schools. He speaks of the need to popularise "alternative methods," as though these were patent and proven gadgets available on application to the Home Office. Many decent, humane and experienced school teachers do not hold that the cane can be dispensed with, even in the education of children who have not had the misfortune to get into the courts.

It is an offence to common-sense to suggest that the same ban should extend to everything from a sadistic flogging to a good spanking. It is equally wrong to suppose that beating is the only, or even necessarily the worst, outlet open to over-enthusiastic disciplinarians.

Daily Mail, London, 9 August 1967

Inspectors move in to wind up school

By Harvey Elliot

EIGHT Home Office inspectors visited Court Lees approved school at South Godstone, Surrey, yesterday to decide the fate of the 40 staff and 115 boys.

The school is to be closed on the orders of Mr. Roy Jenkins, the Home Secretary, as a result of an official inquiry into canings.

cuttingMr. Sydney Gwynne, deputy chief inspector at the Home Office children's department, who led the team of inspectors, said: "We have been working in consultation with the staff.

"If we find boys whom we think it is reasonable to release, then we will aim to that end so that they may return home.

"For the remainder, we hope to transfer them to other school within two weeks if possible, and certainly by the end of the month."


Mr. Denis Haydon, 45, headmaster of the school -- the biggest in the country -- said last night that he could not remember the beatings.

The inquiry found that Mr. Haydon had caned boys with "excessive severity."

He said: "I feel that I should make it clear that I am not a sadist. If I have used excessive force in administering canings -- which in all conscience I still cannot believe I administered -- I assure you that this was not done intentionally.

"I feel that the decision to close the school in the circumstances is most unjust.

"Only today, all the boys in the school came to me and expressed their full support of me as headmaster and said that they considered this to be a first-rate school."

He was "shocked" when he was shown pictures said to have been taken by a master at the school of the boys' injuries.

Mr. Haydon said: "If I had caned a boy like that I would have taken him to the school doctor and would have reported myself to the chairman of the managers. I just can't believe I have ever administered punishment like that."

The deputy headmaster, 55-year-old Mr. Roy Draycon, said that less caning went on at Court Lees than in other approved schools.

He said: "I have caned on average one boy every three weeks. In my three years here I have caned 67. This is a lower average than in other schools."

Mr. Draycon said that he considered three of the transparencies showing the injuries were "quite serious" and one was "very bad."

"I couldn't cane like that," he said. "I only cane out of principle."

We have been asked by Mr. Draycon to make it clear that neither in the official report, nor by any person, was he accused of having personally inflicted excessive corporal punishment.


The Guardian, London, 10 August 1967

Boys in tears as they leave approved school

From Dennis Barker, South Godstone, Wednesday

As the first of the 144 youths were taken to other schools from Court Lees approved school here today -- some of them weeping openly at having to leave -- the headmaster, Mr Dennis Haydon said he would like to remain the headmaster of an approved school.

cuttingHe was asked if he thought that likely as the Home Office had closed the school after an inquiry had found that boys had been caned there with excessive severity. He said: "Headmasters of approved schools are appointed by the management of the school, but they have to be approved by the Home Secretary. You must draw your own conclusions."

Technically all members of the staff, including the headmaster, are under six months' notice. The school has to be closed under its present management by that time.


'Down the spout'

Mr Haydon simply said: "If you want to discuss the position further, you must go to my professional organisation."

Earlier he had said: "Nearly 20 years of work in approved schools have gone down the spout in five minutes."

Ten boys from the school were sent to the Royal Philanthropical Society School at Redhill today. Two boys ran away just before their coach left, but were found in the village and brought back. The 67 boys who are away on leave will start to return to the school tomorrow, some of them bringing their parents with them.


Fair treatment

Some members of the staff of 40 stood round in the small brick cloisters of the main building today, saying it was a shame the boys had to be taken away. Some of the boys sent a letter to the Home Secretary yesterday asking him to reconsider the closure. Mr Haydon said he expected his critics to suggest that these boys were influence by the staff.

"It is quite untrue. It was absolutely spontaneous," he said. "If you read the letter, you can see it is not staff work. It is the most spontaneous and charming thing you could expect from boys. It came right out of the blue."

The letter signed by the boys said: "We have all been treated fairly by the headmaster and all the rest of the staff. We also don't think it fair that all the members of the staff should leave the school within six months' time."

The letter [...] added: "All the boys would sooner keep it as it is now and get rid of Mr Cook." Mr I.R.W. Cook, a master at the school, made a complain about excessive corporal punishment in a letter to the "Guardian." This led eventually to the inquiry [...]

32 signatures

One of the boys who signed the letter (speaking without the official permission of the headmaster and not in his presence) said: "I have been in three of these schools, and this headmaster is the fairest of the lot. I like this school the best and I shall be sorry to go. We got the letter up amongst ourselves and took it around for signatures. Everyone we went to signed it."

Mr Haydon himself said yesterday that 32 boys -- practically all those in the school buildings at the time -- signed the letter.


Daily Telegraph, London, 11 August 1967

Cane school gets "quick close" order

By Gerda Paul


IN spite of mounting protests from parents, and the return of two absconders to rally round the flag, Court Lees approved school near Godstone, Surrey, is to be emptied of boys by the weekend if possible.

Rapid dispersal was in the boys' own interests, Mr. S.A. Gwynn, deputy chief inspector Children's Department, Home Office, told me yesterday. Up to a third of the 112 boys still in residence are to be released.

The remainder, who have longer terms to go, will be dispersed among other schools. Some have already left -- a dozen on Wednesday and three yesterday.

Meanwhile, parents flocked to the school yesterday to take back 65 boys who have been on leave, and to complain roundly about the closure ordered by Mr. Jenkins, Home Secretary, because of "excessive punishments."

Dozens I spoke to were surprised by what they called a "terrible decision" and were even more upset by the speedy emptying ordered for the school.

"Came back home"

One absconder

With the boys returning from leave were two absconders who went back to face the music, if not excessive punishment. Mr. Denis Haydon, the headmaster, said: "One who has no mother or father came back last night.

"He had been away three months and got himself some work, but he told me he was sick of being hounded and wanted to 'come back home.' This is his home."

The other lad, who also absconded about three months ago, telephoned to say he was returning. Mr. Haydon believes that reports of the school's difficulties have had something to do with both decisions to return.

Mothers and fathers got together in groups in the school's sunlit courtyard to discuss the situation.

One mother said: "I have never heard such rubbish as this talk of brutal treatment. My boy has told me when he has had a caning and he's admitted he's deserved it."

Another woman said: "They are not exactly here for a holiday. They have all done naughty things. You have got to have discipline, and I can tell you this place has made something out of my lad."

Many more used the phrase "Done him a world of good."



The Guardian, London, 19 August 1967

Court Lees boys seen by solicitors

By Richard Bourne


Attempts to secure the reopening of Court Lees Approved School were intensified yesterday as a London meeting of 30 headmasters of approved schools in South-east England condemned Mr Jenkins's closure as "hasty, unjust, and unwise."

It also became known that solicitors acting on behalf of the headmaster and his deputy, Mr Denis Haydon and Mr Roy Draycon, had taken statements recently from three boys there.

Simultaneously Mr Ivor Cook, the master whose letter to the "Guardian" alleging excessive punishments, first raised interest in the school, returned from a holiday in France to read for the first time the report of the Recorder of Oxford (who conducted the inquiry). He said it was a shock to find that Court Lees had been closed. "It was something that never entered my head," he added. He would support the reopening of the school.

To be challenged

It is understood that the interviews with the Court Lees boys, conducted by solicitors from the National Union of Teachers on Mr Haydon's behalf in the presence of a Treasury solicitor, were aimed at collecting statements to discredit the photographic and other evidence of excessive corporal punishment at Court Lees. Mr Draycon yesterday stressed that the evidence in the official report would be challenged.

Mr Draycon said: "Some of it is not only untrue but one sided. We were only able to give evidence on the allegations. We were never allowed to give the other side of the penny." [...] The closure "would leave scars on the boys and do far more harm than any caning I have seen."

The unanimous statement issued after yesterday's meeting of the South-eastern branch of the Association of Headmasters, Headmistresses, and Matrons of Approved Schools said that while it did not condone the administration of corporal punishment in breach of the approved school rules the inquiry "did not justify the closure of the school."

The meeting was attended by Mr Haydon, who stated afterwards that he was "greatly heartened" both by it and the support he was getting from the length of the country.


A dozen strokes

Mr Cook, at his home in a school house close to Court Lees, found about 50 letters of support awaiting him on his return from holiday. One, from a former pupil now married with a young son said: "When I was at Court Lees you were pretty good to me. If you need any backing about some of the treatment there you have my name and address because I had at least a dozen strokes at one time."


New inquiry sought


The National Union of Teachers, the National Association of Schoolmasters, the Association of Approved School Headmasters, and the national Association of Approved Schools Staffs plan to see Mr Jenkins next month to urge the reopening of Court Lees and a new inquiry.



The Times, London, 19 August 1967


The Court Lees Affair

Pressure is increasing for a public inquiry in the closing of Court Lees approved school. This may seem a strange response to the prompt action of the Home Secretary on receipt of the Gibbens report on administration of punishment at the school. That report revealed that boys had been caned with excessive severity and that the regulations on corporal punishment had been contravened on several ways on a number of occasions.

Such incidents ought not to be condoned: they justified action. But it is still legitimate to question if the Home Secretary took the right action and, no less important, if it was taken on the basis of adequate evidence. The managers of the school, members of the staff, parents of the boys, and public opinion in general have a right to be satisfied on that score.

Closure of the school -- even though it is the Home Secretary's intention to reopen it again under local authority control as soon as possible -- is an extreme step. Dr. T.M. Ling, the consultant psychiatrist at Court Lees, has written of the grave harm it has done to the morale of the boys.

The staff, the great majority of whom had no connexion with the incidents mentioned in the report, have been embittered. The managers, who have after all been performing voluntarily what they conceived to be a public service, have been left with a sense of injustice.

To order the closure was obviously within the Home Secretary's discretion. There can be no question of his having exceeded his powers. But a convention has grown up that where Ministers are exercising powers of such gravity for the individuals and institutions concerned, they should do so only after a thorough inquiry.

If the Secretary of State for Education wishes to close an independent school, that school has the right to appeal to a tribunal. No such right exists for a privately run approved school, but that in no way diminishes the obligation on the Home Secretary to institute an inquiry into all the evidence and to give the school a fair chance to state its case.

The Gibbens report was not in itself a sufficient basis for the closure. The inquiry was exacting enough, but the terms of reference were too limited. Mr. Gibbens was commissioned to inquiry only into allegations of irregular punishment. Sufficient of these were proved to arouse real concern. They suggested that the atmosphere of the school could have become so embittered as to be past redemption. But that is not evident from the report. [...] The wider issues were left unexplored.

Was the reaction of the managers to the report such as to leave the Home Secretary little alternative but to close the school? That explanation would seem more persuasive if Mr. Jenkins had not come to a provisional decision to close it before he or his officials had discussed the report with the managers. [...]

None of this proves that the decision to close Court Lees was wrong. What it does indicate is that it was taken in the wrong way. Had the terms of reference of the Gibbens inquiry been wider, the necessary evidence would have been available. So would it if Mr. Jenkins had postponed a final decision until after another review of the broader issues.


But Mr. Jenkins must reflect that if he does nothing, that if no further indication is provided of the evidence that justified his decision, then the public will be left with the impression that he has acted with a vigour that many will admire but an impetuosity that even more will question.

The People, London, 20 August 1967

Teacher in cane row tells of "more beatings"

By 'People' Reporter

THE TEACHER at the centre of the caning row at Court Lees approved school revealed yesterday that the Home Office ordered an inquiry into other allegations of excessive punishment -- this time at a boys' remand home.

The teacher, Mr. Ivor Cook, 51, said he told the Home Office about canings alleged to have been inflicted on boys at the home in Harrietsham, near Maidstone, Kent.

A Kent County Council spokesman confirmed the inquiry had been carried out and a report sent to the Home Office.

The Home Office replied they were "very well satisfied that the allegations were untrue," said Miss Mary Burrows, chairman of the County Council's children's committee.

Mr. Cook, whose complaints led to an inquiry at Court Lees -- which was later closed by the Home Secretary -- said:

"When the trouble at Court Lees came to light, two boys who had been at Harrietsham told me that what went on there was far worse."

Mr. Cook said he made a report to the Home Office about a boy at Harrietsham who was caned after absconding for two hours before giving himself up to the police.

The report says the boy was made to change into a thin pair of cotton shorts and ordered to bend over with his head under a billiards table so that he could not straighten up when caned.

Then, in front of other boys, he was given "at least" seven strokes, said the report.

Three blows

The cane used, it claimed, was soaked in water to make it heavier and was replaced with another similar cane after three blows.

Mr. Cook's report says a towel was placed round the boy's back to cover his kidneys and to prevent marks showing if the cane slipped.

Another complaint in Mr. Cook's report tells of a member of the staff who is alleged to have chased a boy round the hall and hit him about four times with a cane while calling out: "Come here you bastard."

Mr. Cook said yesterday: "I reported these two matters to the Home Office after boys told me about them. I wrote giving details of what the boys had said.

"The Home Office replied asking me if I was making a formal allegation, and I wrote back saying that this was not the case -- that I was merely fulfilling my public duty.

"I said I felt that if the allegations were true they required investigating.


Last night, at her home in Sevenoaks, Miss Burrows said an extensive inquiry lasting a "considerable time" had been carried out into the allegations about Harrietsham.


"I am quite sure that the committee will pass a minute saying that they are completely satisfied with the remand home.

"The boy was not caned in front of other boys. Rules state that a boy must not be caned unless another adult is present."

News of the World, London, 20 August 1967


The pride of a boy who took to crime

I AM a married man with a good job and a good home and family. But none of them know of the past life which I have kept secret.

For as a boy I took to crime and spent many years at various approved schools. Now, when I read of the outcry against brutality at some schools I can't help recalling my own days there.

Conditions were tough and boys were beaten although no one was ever punished unless he deserved it. And I know that if it had not been for the teachers I would have grown up into a criminal.

Some of the days I spent at those schools were the happiest of my life. I haven't got an old school tie, but if I had I would be proud to wear it.

(Name and address withheld)


The Guardian, London, 22 August 1967

Court Lees pictures disputed

By our own Reporter

Mr Roy Draycon, deputy headmaster of Court Lees approved school at South Godstone, Surrey, said yesterday that the staff was now "absolutely committed" to breaking down the evidence of the colour transparencies showing the effects of caning on boys at the school.

The Home Secretary closed the school earlier this month [...] but the staff, boys, and teachers' organisations have asked for the school to be reopened.

Evidence "not called"

Mr Draycon said that evidence which could have been called by the inquiry, from people then on holiday who had seen boys directly after canings, had not been called. "We have more hope now that we can break the evidence of the transparencies. We are pretty sure we can," said Mr Draycon.

Mr Ivor Cook suggested in a letter in yesterday's "Guardian" that the school managers had failed to carry out the duties involved in being in loco parentis. Yesterday Judge Cohen, chairman of the managers, said: "Mr Cook never presented us with any evidence of what was going on. He went behind our backs and now says we were not doing out jobs. It is a monstrous accusation he has made."

Bitter resentment

Judge Cohen said the managers of the school bitterly resented the narrow terms of the inquiry, which was limited to corporal punishment, and resented the closure of the school. [...]


Daily Telegraph, London, 22 August 1967


Puzzle of Court Lees

Why No Public Inquiry?


Sir -- Like many of your other readers I am sorely puzzled and disturbed at the action of the Home Secretary in so dramatically closing down Court Lees Approved School.

As I see the position, though of course I may be wrong in some details, on one side we have a single master at the school complaining that there was excessive physical punishment inflicted on the pupils. This complaint was subsequently supported by a discreet inquiry conducted by someone or other, and the complaint apparently confirmed. And so, on these slender grounds, the Home Secretary took his drastic step of closing down the school and at once.

Now if we take the other side of the picture the position is very different. First, the boys themselves, who asserted that they were well cared for, well fed, and well treated; in fact some of them seemed to regard the school as their home.

Next the boys' parents protested, then the school management committee (presumably well acquainted with the school and the teachers), while in addition we have all the other masters, barring the one who complained, and lastly the National Union of Teachers and various other scholastic organisations, all protesting against the closure of the school.

What, Sir, are we to think, and what is the objection to holding a public inquiry as the protesters demand? Can the Home Secretary reply to this letter?

Yours faithfully,

London, N.W.1.

Gloomy view

Sir -- I have been associated with a Home Office approved school for many years as medical officer, and I am conscious of the problems which face the senior staff of these institutions in dealing with indiscipline, which varies from arson to vicious attacks on other boys. I am sure the only punishment which some boys respect is physical.

Of course the boy had photogenic weals on his bottom; I had the same when I was at school but was not photographed, and I am amazed that my eminent colleagues took such a gloomy view of a coloured print.

I have known Mr. Hayden [sic] as a dedicated master and a kindly man.

Yours faithfully,

Coleshill, Warwicks.


Daily Telegraph, London, 31 August 1967

Court Lees questions by doctor

By Daily Telegraph Reporter

A DOCTOR yesterday questioned the reliability of medical evidence given at the inquiry into alleged "excessive canings" at Court Lees Approved School, South Godstone, Surrey, which Mr. Jenkins, Home Secretary, has closed.

In a letter to Mr. Denis Haydon, headmaster of Court Lees, who is to lose his job, Dr. Henry Matthew, of the Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh, suggests questions which should be put to the medical witnesses "when a further inquiry is held."

At the inquiry ordered by the Home Office [...] colour transparencies, taken by a master at the school, purported to show the injuries inflicted on two of the boys. They were said by eminent medical witnesses to indicate "quite excessive severity."

"Not infallible"


Dr. Matthew said in his letter the inquiry was at fault in regarding medical evidence as infallible.

The medical witnesses, he said, were eminent forensic pathologists, without doubt experienced in their own field. But he questioned whether their field extended to pronouncing on coloured transparencies of the buttocks of boys beaten with a cane.

He suggested that, "when a further inquiry is held," these doctors should be asked when previously they had studied coloured transparencies of boys beaten by a cane.

Caning criteria

Dr. Matthew referred to evidence that the injuries were "outside the limits of normal caning." He suggested the doctors should be asked how they defined these limits, and what experience they had to enable them to determine the limits.

Transparencies showing the results of "normal caning" should be shown, so that deviation from the normal could be ascertained.

Dr. Matthew has sent a copy of his letter to Mr. William Deedes, Conservative M.P. for Ashford. Mr. Deedes, a former Under-Secretary at the Home Office, is leading an Opposition demand for a new inquiry into the Court Lees affair.

blob Previous: 5 May 1967: Approved school beatings: The facts

blob Follow-up: 24 October 1967: Bishop hits at teacher who told of Court Lees beatings

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