R v Hopley
Citations: 175 ER 1024 (1860).
A schoolmaster asked a ten-year-old child’s father for permission to beat him as punishment for misbehaviour, which the father gave. The schoolmaster beat the child with a stick for over two hours until he died. The schoolmaster was charged with manslaughter. He argued that the beating was lawful under the defence of reasonable chastisement of a child.
- Did the beating fall under the defence of reasonable chastisement of children?
The High Court held that the defendant was guilty of manslaughter. The beating had gone far beyond what was permitted under the defence of reasonable chastisement of children.
This Case is Authority For…
To rely on the defence of reasonable chastisement of children, the punishment must not be:
- ‘administered for the gratification of passion or of rage’;
- ‘immoderate and excessive in its nature or degree’;
- ‘protracted beyond the child’s powers of endurance,’ or
- using ‘an instrument unfitted for the purpose and calculated to produce danger to life or limb’.
In the modern era, school teachers cannot rely on the defence of reasonable chastisement. It is also now unavailable where the punishment causes actual bodily harm or worse: Children Act 2004, s 58.