Will Corporal punishment make a visit back to Australia?

By National Criminal Lawyers

Whipping (or flogging) was a common form of punishment in early colonial Australia and was used against both women and men. In the early court system, some magistrates awarded quite brutal sentences.

Fast forward to May 2018 and in NSW the head of the Carlingford branch of the Liberal Party is calling for floggings for crimes to be re induced.

The NSW Liberal Party has also put forward a radical proposal to introduce corporal punishment and replace judges with a selected group of members of the public, as reported by the Sydney Morning Herald.
George Popowski, president of the hard-right Carlingford Branch of the Liberal Party, wishes to “straighten out the law and order system” by leaving sentencing in the hands of a group of 20 members from the public. The notoriously hard-right say sentencing powers with no more than 30 per cent from the legal fraternity should exist. He also proposed that corporal punishment be reintroduced, suggesting that it was the fairest form of punishment. He said, “we all feel the same pain”.

Popowski’s proposal suggested that if somebody was to steal a T-shirt, they would get 10 lashes. 1,000 lashes for stealing a car, 5,000 lashes for punching a police officer and 20,000 lashes for murder.
In his written proposal Mr Popowski said that the floggings should be “delivered at 10 lashes per hour – every hour from 9am to 5pm, with one hour for lunch” because it would seem anybody who has spent the morning lashing deserves a long lunch break.

Mr Popowski also wants to ban all immigration stating migrants are “criminals”, “bastards” and “jihadists” and has said that our education system has been “usurped by lefties (communists)”.

In the preamble attached to the motion, Mr Popowski also accused migrants of forging documents, faking degrees, rorting the visa system, slacking on welfare and taking jobs from locals.

“The last thing we need is foreign workers. Get the bastards who are here, off their back-sides! 80% of all new arrivals are on benefits – some for over 10 years!” he wrote. “Simple: compulsory work for the dole – plus, prison for all the crooked quacks who’ve signed them up for the DSP!”

Corporal punishment and flogging

In 1816, Joseph Salter and William Doyle were each sentenced to “thrice fifty lashes in the public street” for pig stealing. One of the most infamous magistrates was Reverend Samuel Marsden, “the flogging parson”; the nickname arose from the severe punishments meted out to some of the convicts who appeared before him in the New South Wales Court of Petty Sessions.

During the nineteenth century, changing perceptions of punishment impacted the role of whipping in sentencing. One important shift was the abolition of corporal punishment inflicted on female offenders. Punishment focused more on physical deprivation than physical harm. Instead of whipping, women were subjected to solitary confinement and dietary restrictions. In April 1827, a Hobart newspaper reported that Jane Jackson, who had absconded from her master’s service, was sentenced to solitary confinement for 7 days with only bread and water to sustain her. A decade later Julia Leech, then Matron of the Parramatta Female Factory recorded that as of June 30, 1838 15 of the 596 women detained in the Factory were held in solitary confinement.

The second development was that whipping sentences became directed at specific groups in society and increasingly employed for specific offences. In Western Australia, the government passed the Aboriginal Offenders (Amendment) Act 1892 that legislated whippings for minor offences and misdemeanors heard in the magistrates’ court. The Act stipulated 25 strokes as the maximum number possible for an adult male offender, and 12 strokes as the maximum for juvenile males. Larry, an Aboriginal man who had absconded from police, was sentenced in the Melbourne court to 18 lashes with a cat-o-nine tails, and a month in leg irons. An unnamed Aboriginal man was sentenced to the full 25 lashes for stealing from a shepherd’s hut.

Up into the 1930s and early 1940s, judges ordered whippings with a cane, a leather strap or a birch rod. Others directed whipping with the infamous cat of nine tails. While whippings were in decline, they continued to be applied to offences like robbery in company, robbery with violence, or wounding with intent to do grievous bodily harm.


If you are charged with a criminal offence and don’t want a “whipping” it is essential that you receive the best legal advice. The defence team at National Criminal Lawyers have considerable experience in dealing with criminal offences. For a first FREE consultation with one of our Senior Criminal Lawyers Guarantee contact our office on 02 9893 1889 or visit www.nationalcriminallawyers.com.au for more information about your options.

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