Judicial corporal punishment
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Judicial corporal punishment (JCP) refers to the infliction of corporal punishment as a result of a sentence by a court of law. The punishment can be caning, bastinado, birching, whipping, or strapping. The practice was once commonplace in many countries, but it is no longer practised in any European country, and it has now been abolished in most Western countries, but remains a legal punishment in some Asian, African and Middle Eastern countries.
Countries where JCP is used
The Singaporean official punishment of caning became much discussed around the world in 1994 when an American teenager, Michael Fay, was sentenced to six strokes of the cane for vandalism. Since then, the number of caning sentences handed down each year in Singapore has doubled.
Many Muslim-majority countries use judicial corporal punishment, such as United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Iran, northern Nigeria, Sudan and Yemen, employ judicial whipping or caning for a range of offences. In Indonesia (Aceh province only) it has recently been introduced for the first time.
Full list of countries
A list of 33 countries that use lawful, official JCP today is as follows:
- Afghanistan (men and women - whip or cane, no target specified; public or private) see Judicial corporal punishment in Afghanistan
- Antigua and Barbuda (boys only - details unclear)
- Bahamas (men - cat on bare back; boys - cane on bare buttocks; in private)
- Barbados (boys only - details unclear)
- Botswana (males aged 14 to 40 - cane on bare buttocks; in private)
- Brunei (men and boys - cane on bare buttocks; in private)
- Dominica (boys under 16 - details unclear)
- Grenada (men and boys - details unclear)
- Ecuador (men and women - traditional indigenous justice)
- Guyana (men and boys - details unclear)
- Indonesia, Aceh Special Region only (men and women - cane on clothed back; in public)
- Iran (men, women, boys, girls - whip or strap, no target specified; public or private)
- Lesotho (men and boys - details unclear)
- Malaysia (Criminal law: men and boys - cane on bare buttocks; in private). See Caning in Malaysia. * (Sharia law, Muslims only: men and women - cane on clothed back; in private)
- Maldives (men and women - details unclear)
- Nigeria (men, women - cane on clothed buttocks or whip on bare back; in public or private. Judicial corporal punishments only exist in some northern states, that practice Sharia law).
- Pakistan (men and boys - cane or strap on clothed buttocks; public or private)
- Qatar (men and women - details unclear; in private)
- Saint Kitts and Nevis (boys and men - details unclear)
- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (boys only - cane on bare buttocks)
- Saudi Arabia (men and women - whip or cane over clothes, no target specified; public or private)
- Sierra Leone (boys only - cane or birch on bare buttocks)
- Singapore (men and boys - cane on bare buttocks; in private). See Caning in Singapore.
- Somalia (men and women - cane on clothed buttocks)
- Sudan (men, women, boys, girls - whip on clothed back)
- Swaziland (boys only - cane on bare buttocks)
- Tanzania (men and boys - cane on bare buttocks; in private)
- Tonga (men - cat on bare buttocks; boys - birch or cat on bare buttocks)
- Trinidad and Tobago (men only - cat on bare back or birch on bare buttocks; in private)
- Tuvalu (details unclear)
- United Arab Emirates (Muslim men - whip on bare back; Muslim women - whip on clothed back; in private). No longer applied to non-Muslims.
- Yemen (details unclear)
- Zimbabwe (boys only - cane on bare buttocks; in private)
History by country
The last birching sentence was carried out in 1966, and abandoned as a policy in 1969 but lingered on the statute books. Obsolete references to corporal punishment were removed from remaining statutes by the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) (No. 2) (Jersey) Law 2007
The last birching sentence was carried out in 1968. The Corporal Punishment (Guernsey) Law, 1957 was finally repealed by the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Law, 2006
Isle of Man
It was abolished in the Isle of Man after the judgment in Tyrer v. UK by the European Court of Human Rights. Judicial birching was abolished in 2000 (a 13-year-old boy, who was convicted of robbing another child of 10p, was the last recorded juvenile case in May 1971)
In 1854 judicial corporal punishment was abolished with the exception of whipping. Whipping itself was abolished in 1870.
In the Wetboek van Strafrecht, article 9, this kind of punishment is not listed as primary or secondary punishment. Mainly because of human rights and/or human dignity, corporal punishment has been abolished and does not exist at this time.
The Constitutional Court decided in 1995 in the case of S v Williams and Others that caning of juveniles was unconstitutional. Although the ruling in S v Williams was limited to the corporal punishment of males under the age of 21, Justice Langa mentioned in dicta that there was a consensus that corporal punishment of adults was also unconstitutional.
In the United Kingdom, JCP generally was abolished in 1948; however, it persisted in prisons as a punishment for prisoners committing serious assaults on prison staff (ordered by prison's visiting justices) until it was abolished by s 65 (Abolition of corporal punishment in prison) of the Criminal Justice Act 1967 (the last ever prison flogging was in 1962).
American colonies judicially punished in a variety of forms, including whipping, stocks, the pillory and the ducking stool. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, whipping posts were considered indispensable in American and English towns. Starting in 1776, Gen. George Washington strongly advocated and utilized JCP in the Continental Army, with due process protection, obtaining in 1776 authority from the Continental Congress to impose 100 lashes, more than the previous limit of 39. In his 1778 Bill for Proportioning Crimes and Punishments, Thomas Jefferson provided up to 15 lashes for witchcraft, at the jury’s discretion; castration for men guilty of rape, polygamy or sodomy, and a minimum half-inch hole bored in the nose cartilage of women convicted of those sex crimes. In 1781, Washington requested legal authority from the Continental Congress to impose up to 500 lashes, as there was still a punishment gap between 100 lashes and the death penalty. The Founders believed whipping and other forms of corporal punishment effectively promoted pro-social and discouraged anti-social behavior. Two later presidents, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, advocated judicial corporal punishment as punishment for wife-beating.
In the United States judicial flogging was last used in 1952 in Delaware when a wife beater got 20 lashes. In Delaware, the criminal code permitted floggings to occur until 1972. One of the major objections to judicial corporal punishment in the United States was that it was unpleasant to administer.
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- St Kitts & Nevis State Report, GITEACPOC, February 2009.
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- S v Williams and Others  ZACC 6 at para. 10, 1995 (3) SA 632, 1995 (7) BCLR 861 (9 June 1995), Constitutional Court (South Africa)
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- Journals of the Continental Congress, Articles of War – 20 September 1776, Section XVIII - Art. 3: “No person shall be sentenced to suffer death, except in the cases expressly mentioned in the foregoing articles; nor shall more than one hundred lashes be inflicted on any offender, at the discretion of a court-martial.” Articles of War – 30 June 1775, Art. 51 limited JCP to 39 lashes. EUGENE D. GENOVESE, ROLL, JORDAN, ROLL – THE WORLD THE SLAVES MADE 308 (1974).
- Jefferson, Thomas. "A Bill for Proportioning Crimes and Punishments §14 (castration; cartilage), §15 (maiming), §24 (witchcraft) (1778)". press-pubs.uchicago.edu.
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- "Jamaican court abolishes flogging". CNN. 18 December 1998. Afterwards, in 2000, the UN Human Rights Committee found in case Osbourne v. Jamaica, concerning a whipping conducted in 1997, that corporal punishment constituted 'cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment contrary to article 7 of ICCPR' (Para. 9.1). A similar conclusion was reached in 2002 in case Higginson v. Jamaica No. 792/1998.
- Bowry, Pravin (16 September 2003). "Changes in criminal law significant". Daily Nation. Nairobi.
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- "Judicial and Prison Flogging in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-century Germany", World Corporal Punishment Research.
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