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Judicial CP - September 1961

News of the World, London, 3 September 1961

Birching Isle Says the Tough Way's Best

News of the World Reporters

ISLE OF MAN, SATURDAY. -- IT'S not often the Isle of Man, that friendly holiday island, takes the birch to a visitor. But it has just exercised its legal right to do so. And the great majority of its inhabitants warmly approve.

This island and the Channel Islands are the only fragments of Great Britain where corporal punishment is still in full swing. It has been banned on the mainland since 1948.

The visitor who felt the strong arm of the law was 19-year-old Trevor Large, of Chaucer-street, Royton, Lancs. He arrived on a day trip with his darts team and admitted butting the bar manager of a Douglas hotel into unconsciousness after being refused further drink.

He had a record of violence and Mr Thomas Radcliffe, the magistrate, sentenced him to six months' imprisonment and eight strokes of the birch.

Two local 16-year-olds found carrying offensive weapons in the Marine Hall at Peel were also ordered the birch. One received six strokes and the other three. Both were sent to detention for a month.

I asked the Bishop of Sodor and Man, the Rt. Rev. Benjamin Pollard, for his views.

"They thoroughly deserved it," he said. "I am definitely in favour of the use of the cane and the birch.

"I have always held the view that for crimes of violence corporal punishment is a valuable deterrent. We need it more than ever now."

With a chuckle, the Bishop asked: "Is that definite enough for you?"


Definite indeed, and so were the views of dozens of islanders and visitors whose opinions I asked.

Said Mr Radcliffe, the magistrate who ordered the birch for the man who attacked the hotel manager: "People who are very keen on inflicting punishment don't like it themselves. A taste of their own medicine does them good."

Chief Constable Mr C.C. Beaty-Powell, who keeps order among the 50,000 residents and annual half million visitors with a police force of only 95, reported the island "remarkably free of any serious crime."

"Any serious offences are usually committed by our own residents or by seasonal workers. Visitors give the least trouble," he said.


Last year there were six canings and two birchings. So far this year there have been four birchings and two canings.

The cane -- "an ordinary cane similar to those used in school" -- is used on boys under the age of 14. The birch -- "just a bunch of twigs" -- is used to beat youths aged 14 to 20.

The beatings are carried out by a constable in the presence of a superior officer, a doctor and, if the boy wishes, his parents or guardians.

What if the constable asks to be excused carrying out the punishment?

"He is ordered to do it and it is his duty under the law to do so," said the Chief Constable.

Mr Albert Corkish, a member of the House of Keys, the Manx Parliament, told me: "I am wholeheartedly in favour of the birch. When offenders get that they have something to remember."

Said Mr W.E. Quayle, 42-year-old member of the House of Keys and a magistrate since the age of 30: "We give a short sharp lesson. It hurts. And it hurts their dignity, too.

"We find we have to be somewhat tough owing to the apparent weakness of punishment in Britain today.

"The earlier a beating is administered the better the chance of preventing a youth continuing criminal conduct. Our statistics prove this."

The other view came from Mr Edward Callister, Douglas town councillor.


"Birching is prohibited in England and yet the children of English people come to the Isle of Man and are flogged," he said.

"I believe in a father chastising his son because the son feels no indignity. This also applies to a great extent with a schoolmaster.

"But to give a cold and callous beating to a boy who is still immature, whose whole outlook on life will be affected, is stupid.

"He is taken to a basement in the police-station. The police undress the boy and make him lean over a bench. Then a complete stranger beats him.

"That has a searing influence on a boy. It makes a hard boy harder. It could crush a sensitive boy to the extent that he will never become a man."

But in this happy holiday island it was clear that was very much a minority view.

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