13 January 1956
On 13 January 1956, six Greek Cypriot boys from Famagusta were birched under one of several emergency regulations introduced the previous month to stamp out an island wide rebellion against British rule. By July, Lennox-Boyd, the colonial minister, admitted that a total of 118 boys had been ‘sentenced to whipping,’ of whom thirteen were under fourteen years of age. 96 such sentences had been inflicted on Cypriot children, despite the fact that in Britain itself such punishments had been banned under the Criminal Justice Act of 1948.1
The Famagusta schoolboys were aged between fifteen and sixteen and had been convicted two months earlier at a British run court of taking part in an unlawful demonstration and rioting. All six received seven strokes at a British military facility from a police officer who wore sun glasses to disguise his identity. An official statement declared that the punishment was ‘neither light nor excessive.’2
Other typical sentences included six strokes of the cane inflicted on a 14 year old student at Larnaca for ‘possession of a seditious leaflet’ and that of 12 strokes of the cane given to a 15 year old boy at Limassol for scattering similar leaflets calling for rebellion.3 After reading reports of such punishments, one Daily Mirror reader wrote to the newspaper’s editor, confessing that ‘when I read of the British authorities in Cyprus passing sentences of caning on young children I feel downright ashamed of my British nationality.’4
- ’96 Boys Birched,’ The Daily Mirror, 10 July 1956, p. 5 and ‘Corporal Punishment (Whipping)’, Hansard, 9 July 1956 accessed online at url https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/1956-07-09/debates/b4f156a3-0500-400e-af0e-e8ee43a3e746/CorporalPunishment(Whipping)
- ‘Students Caned,’ The Belfast Telegraph, 13 January 1956, p. 1.
- ‘Rioting by Children in Cyprus,’ The Birmingham Post, 9 February 1956, p. 16 and ‘Cyprus Boy (15) to get 12 Strokes,’ The Birmingham Daily Gazette, 27 March 1956, p. 1.
- ‘Ashamed,’ The Daily Mirror, 25 June 1956, p. 2.
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