Thursday, 8 September 2011

Judicial corporal punishment

My good friend Michael M has posted quite a few comments on my blog and  is largely responsible for Mistres and I operating a weekly maintence punishment system, thanks to his detail accounts the sytem his wife operates. Michael  recently started his own rather excellent blog called Disciplined Behavior (see: and I read with interest one of his recent posts calling for the introduction of the Singapore Judicial cane to the UK.

This is what he said:

“Some of you will have heard about the so called “riots” in England a few weeks ago. 
“Since then there have been thousands of words written in the newspapers about the justice (or injustice) of sending these hooligans to prison. Maybe if we administered justice “Singapore style” with 6 or 12 strokes of the rattan cane, then we would not be paying so much to keep these miscreants in prison and maybe there would not have been any looting in the first place. I don’t imagine that the courts in Singapore see many people for a second offence after a caning.

“I will not include any of the actual images of a judicial caning as they are quite strong. This one gives you plenty of scope to imagine what it might be like to bent over for the strokes from a rattan cane, which has been soaked for hours in water to give it added weight. Anyone who is interested in this topic can key Singapore Canings into You Tube to see how painful they might be.”

I tried to post this comment on Michael’s blog but there seems to be some technical issue so I’ve decided to post it here instead:

Hi Michael,

I’m afraid I have to disagree with you on this one – in as much as adopting the Singapore cane.
I’m one of those ‘do-gooders’ who feel that the Singapore Judicial canings are barbaric – in as much as, from what I understand, the very first stroke doesn’t just draw blood, it tears open the flesh.

I would also have argued vehemently in the past that I’ve always been and always would be against any form of corporal punishment, apart from between consenting adults. But even my staunch opposition is waning as I see a total lack of discipline across the nation.

This morning I visited my parents for the first time in a while and my Mother broached the subject of ‘the riots’ and said, ‘the trouble is those hooligans have no idea of discipline. We should never have given up using the cane. It never did us any harm. My Mother had a ‘penny cane’ and woe betide any of us if we stepped out of line.’

She told me how her brother was caned several times at school, at which point I pointed out the cane could not exactly have been a deterrent. She however argued that when her brother moaned to their mother he had been caned, she asked him what he had done and he then owned up to his misdemeanours – so he obviously had taken on board the error of his ways. It was a good argument.

At school I was never subjected to corporal punishment because, I believe, my parents taught me right from wrong, so I never found myself in too much trouble. My children have grown up without getting into major trouble and I’m hoping that’s in part because they know right from wrong.

They’ve never been subjected to corporal punishment in any form. So maybe it’s down to educating kids about respect etc. But that’s not the easy answer for those living with no hope for the future etc.

However, rather than get in a heavy debate about the why’s and where fore’s of the riots that even the cleverest people in the country don’t understand…..let me get back to corporal punishment.

At school I openly admit I feared the cane, but it wasn’t so much the pain I worried about, it was the fear of the humiliation of everyone knowing, because, believe me, punishments were widely discussed at our school. There was a real stigma attached to being caned.

I think it’s that fear that’s missing now and kids (and grown ups) think , ‘well so what if I do this, ‘what can they do to me…’

So to take your viewpoint, but refine it, maybe it would be an idea to reintroduce corporal punishment into western society, using the cane as a means of Judicial correction.

And those punishment are reported by the press - not in a ‘the poor lad got caned, isn’t it terrible’ way, but in a factual, ‘this was the crime and this is how he/she paid the price.’

But rather than using  a barbaric tool like they use in Singapore – where canings are limited to in strokes because the flesh is destroyed so quickly - why not use a thick Dragon cane where punishments of larger number of strokes could be administered without excessively damaging the flesh?

Yes, blood might be drawn but the flesh won’t be flayed open. But, believe me, it would still be an agonising punishment – and with a larger number of strokes possible, the suffering would be drawn out.

But the most important aspect to the punishment would be ritual. That’s what used to make school canings feared. Imagine after sentence you are held for at least one day in a cell to really think about your situation. Then you have to change into punishment shorts before being led to a special punishment cell. There you undergo a medical and are then led to a bench to which your are strapped down. The punishment is administered slowly, and methodically under strict supervision.

My worry about the use of corporal punishment has always been that it’s a system open to abuse – so when I say strict supervision, I mean  it would have to be a foolproof system that punishments were given to the letter.

It’s pure fantasy of course because our society has tipped so far the other way from when I was a child. But, for those interested, there is a really good piece of fiction suggesting a very methodical Judicial punishment system called ‘The Discipline Archive by Garrick Espieside.’

The most interesting question for me in this type of discussion is, imagine if corporal punishment was reinstated, at what age group should it be targeted?  And for what crimes?  If we say it’s targeted at so called ‘hooligans’ – well some of those arrested in the riots were in there 30s. And is it for females as well as males?

So isn’t there an argument that says corporal punishment should be used across all ages for any criminal offence that involves injury to others or attacks on property?

And then comes the argument, should it be reintroduced in schools?

Personally, I think it’s like Garrick’s book – pure fantasy, but a very thought provoking fantasy none the less.

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