HC Deb 04 March 1879 vol 244 cc130-2

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether his attention has been called to the case of a lad named Stevenson, aged about fifteen, who in May last was sentenced at Glasgow by the stipendiary magistrate to receive fifteen stripes for the offence of throwing (in play) a small bag of pease meal at a girl who had first thrown the same at him and had made no complaint upon the matter; whether, on appeal, the sentence was at once quashed, as illegal, after, however, the flogging had been inflicted, the Judge, Lord Craighill, observing that— As there was no warrant according to the law of Scotland for the imposition of whipping; for such an offence as that, which is the only offence, if it is worthy of the name, presented in this complaint, there can he no difficulty in arriving at a conclusion; whether on various previous occasions the same magistrate had not inflicted similar illegal floggings; and, whether he still retains his office?


Sir, in order to make my reply intelligible, it is necessary that I should explain that the power of inflicting corporal punishment in Scotland rests on Common Law, and that the magistrates of burghs, including the stipendiary of Glasgow, have the right to inflict corporal punishment for particular offences, including brawls, riots, and assaults committed in the streets. The Legislature has assumed the existence of that right, and instead of directly conferring it, has regulated it, from time to time, by Statute. The offence charged in this case was an offence under the Glasgow Police Act of 1866—a Statute which imposed somewhat stringent regulations. The Judge before whom the conviction was brought on appeal had nothing before him but the complaint and the sentence. He quashed the conviction on the ground that the complaint did not set forth any Common Law offence, although it might be an offence within the meaning of the Police Act. I think it right to say that the only statement of what occurred rests on the ex parte statement made in the appeal papers; and I have found, on inquiry, that the evidence laid before the Judge did not disclose the state of facts which is assumed in the Question. On the contrary, it appears that the lad had gone about with a bag of flour on a wet day, causing considerable annoyance, and doing no little damage to the clothes of the bystanders. The Statutory punishment for such an offence was a fine of £10, or 15 days' imprisonment. Had it been a Common Law offence, there is no doubt the stipendiary could have inflicted corporal punishment. I have not been able to discover any other illegal sentences under the rule of this decision that have been pronounced by the Judge in question. He still continues in office; because my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary concurs with me in believing that the stipendiary of Glasgow is a man who is incapable of inflicting any punishment that would not be upheld by a superior Judge.