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Judicial CP - June 2005

Corpun file 16093

Jamaica Gleaner, Kingston, 4 June 2005

Chastising with the sting of the scorpion

By Hartley Neita

LAST TUESDAY, a lady for whom I have a lot of respect gave me a tongue-lashing for four flights in an elevator about my advocacy for the resumption of the cat-o-nine. In language that was elegant, she described me as a wicked prehistoric man, ending with a swipe that was the unkindest cut of all.

She blazed at me. "It is because of your generation which resorted to cruel and inhumane methods of punishment in your time that has led to the chaos and violence being heaped on the society today."

Well, let's look back in time.

Women were once burnt to death while tied to a stake because they were thought to be witches. Kings and Queens (more of the latter) had their heads lopped off by an axe or the guillotine. Thieves were once dragged through the streets by a racing horse until they were battered to death. Women were once stoned to death because they were unfaithful to their husbands. Among those throwing the stones was probably the man with whom she liaised. The heads of slaves were once cut off and stuck on a pole on South Parade in Kingston. In other countries, the hands of thieves are cut off.

And remember that stirring quote in the Bible: "My father has chastised you with whips. But I will chastise you with scorpions!"


I remember reading of a seven-year-old girl crying for her mother when she was called on in the St. Andrew Resident Magistrate's Court on October 19, 1953 to relate how she was indecently assaulted by a 70-year-old man. She was only pacified when the Court asked her mother to sit beside her while she gave evidence. She then told of being in Maxfield Park when the man chased, caught and assaulted her.

The man's sentence was 12 months at hard labour and ordered to receive six strokes of the cat-o-nine.

A young girl who has probably spent the fifty years of her life re-living the terror of her rape.

There was the other extreme in ages. This was the case of a 28-year-old man who received sentences of 7 and 15 years at hard labour, to run consecutively, for burglary, larceny and rape of a 63-year-old woman. He threatened her with a knife, gagged her and bound her hands and finally left her bleeding after savagely and brutally raping her. He was ordered to receive 15 lashes of the cat-o-nine.

I do not know if these two men were ever whipped as was ordered. I only know they were found guilty of rape.

So what is this cat-o-nine? It is an instrument used to flog and inflict punishment upon a convicted rapist. Such as of that six-year-old girl and the 63-year-old woman. It is a "rope whip consisting of a round, wooden handle 16 inches long, and one to one-and-half inches in diameter with nine thongs of cotton cord attached to one end of the handle, each thong being 30 inches long and not more than three-sixteenths of an inch in diameter, and knotted at the end with cotton twine". The flogging is inflicted on the back of the convict between the shoulder and the waist. It whistles through the air.

Every man who has been flogged with the cat-o-nine bears the welts on his back for the rest of his life. He wears a shirt to hide these welts. He cannot swim in a bathing trunk. He only wants to have sex in the dark, but the welts give him away. And usually, he never returns to his village or his community.


On the other hand, the child or the woman who has been raped carries the welts in her memory for the remainder of her days.

Now I forgot last week to mention the other form of punishment and that is whipping with a tamarind switch. This switch consists of "three lengths of twigs of the tamarind tree, each 47 to 48 inches long and not more than one-quarter of one inch in diameter, trimmed smoothly so that there shall be no protrusions of knots or joints and bound together with cotton twine". The tamarind switch is used on the convict's buttocks, and it is weeks before he can sit without pain.

So, I am adding the tamarind switch to my appeal that the cat-o-nine should be used again. And all those men whose sentences included flogging and whipping and who, for one reason or not did not receive this punishment and are back in society, should be taken in one-by-one to the place of their former sojourn in prison and flogged or whipped as was prescribed by the resident magistrate. Their punishment was not complete. They owe it to society.

So, lady of the elevator, forgive me for my views, even if you disagree with me. I am a small part of a long history of generations. And I do not believe that whipping and flogging of rapists is the cause of the violence which is becoming almost endemic in the society.


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