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Volume 155: debated on Monday 26 June 1922

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asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether whipping is resorted to as a disciplinary punishment in the Navy; if so, to what extent and under what circumstances; what alterations in the regulations relating to this subject have been made since 1906, and under what circumstances were the alterations made; is any record kept of the sentences involving flogging and of such sentences having been carried out; and how many of such eases have occurred annually since 1906 in which flogging has been inflicted?

Information as to birching in the Royal Navy has been given in reply to questions by the hon. Member for East Leyton and the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull on the 22nd March, 1922, and the 15th June, 1921, respectively. After having been in abeyance since 1906 the punishment of birching was reinstituted in September, 1917, by Admiralty Orders, subject to the following conditions. It is a punishment for first offences of unnatural crimes between male persons under 18 years of age. It may only be awarded by court martial, and not summarily. The maximum number of strokes is 24, and the punishment is administered in the presence of the ship's executive officer and a medical officer. The admiralty in authorising this punishment was influenced by the consideration that birching was preferable as a deterrent in crimes of this nature to imprisonment or dismissal from the Service as being less likely to make habitual criminals of ratings not fully adult. The punishment has been awarded and carried out since September, 1917, six times, namely:

1917One case.
1918Two cases.
1921Three cases.
1922 to dateNil.

In order to avoid misapprehension, I would add that flogging (with the cat-o'-nine-tails) has long been and remains abolished in the Navy by Admiralty Order. The punishment of birching is the same as whipping, which, under the ordinary civil law, may be awarded for a much wider range of crimes than those to which it is restricted in the Royal Navy. The birch-rod is the usual instrument where a punishment of whipping is inflicted by the Civil Courts, and the Admiralty have no reason to believe that the punishment is more severely administered in the Royal Navy than under the civil jurisdiction.