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Sentences imposed by Mr Justice Edwards upon certain convicted persons at the criminal sessions in Auckland will probably have attracted a measure of public attention in that they involve the infliction of flogging as part of the punishment.
The question of the desirability or efficacy of the lash as a punitive instrument is an old subject of controversy, and it is not to be expected that there will be entire agreement upon the subject among all the members of this or any other modern community. To whatever extent public opinion may be opposed to the infliction in general of floggings upon offenders, there seems good reason, however, why it should acquiesce in the opinion that the use of the lash as a deterrent influence is called for in the case of persons convicted of sexual offences.
The conflict of opinion which is liable to be excited when any impression is created that there is likely to be a revival of flogging as a practice associated with the administration of justice was illustrated in the Old Country recently by the discussion of the flogging clauses in what was known as the White Slave Traffic Bill.
The Government was subjected to a considerable measure of criticism in certain quarters for promoting legislation that once more authorised the use of the lash as punishment for crime, but Parliament undoubtedly had the balance of popular opinion on its side in favouring this extension of the range of corporal punishment in the criminal code. There are those who contend that such a step is retrogressive, but they are scarcely fair in their presentment of the case. The question of a general revival of the use of the lash was never at issue.
It was only the question of its use in special cases with which the Imperial Parliament was concerned. It is argued that to flog a man brutalises and degrades him, and this may be true enough as a general rule. But there are human beings, unfortunately, of a type already so brutalised and degraded that no form of punishment other than corporal punishment is capable of making a sufficient impression upon them.
A sentiment which may be admirably used in reference to normal human nature is frequently misplaced when it is applied to the class in which procurers and those guilty of certain sexual offences belong.
Corporal punishment has a very real deterrent influence, whatever may be said to the contrary, and if it be restricted to a particular type of offence it may have valuable results. It separates these offences from all others, and by showing in what utter abhorrence healthy opinion regards them it does something to make even the worst of men realise their enormity. - ODT, 28.2.1913