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R v Hopley (1860) 2 F&F 202

The defendant was a school master. He wrote to a pupil's father to obtain consent to chastise the pupil stating that the pupil, a 13 year old boy, was obstinate and if he were his child he would chastise him and if necessary continue at intervals even if the boy held out for hours. The father replied agreeing to the course of action. The defendant subsequently beat the boy repeatedly for two and a half hours with a thick stick. The boy died.


Held: The defendant was liable for manslaughter and sentenced to four years imprisonment.


Lord Cockburn CJ:
"By the law of England, a parent or a schoolmaster (who for this purpose represents the parent and has the parental authority delegated to him), may for the purpose of correcting what is evil in the child inflict moderate and reasonable corporal punishment, always, however, with this condition, that it is moderate and reasonable. If it be administered for the gratification of passion or of rage, or if it be immoderate and excessive in its nature or degree, or if it be protracted beyond the child's powers of endurance, or with an instrument unfitted for the purpose and calculated to produce danger to life or limb; in all such cases the punishment is excessive, the violence is unlawful, and if evil consequences to life or limb ensue, then the person inflicting it is answerable to the law, and if death ensues it will be manslaughter...

It is true that the father authorized the chastisement, but he did not, and no law could, authorize an excessive chastisement. There can be no doubt that the prisoner thought the boy obstinate, but that did not excuse extreme severity and excessive punishment."
 
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