Punishment For Rehearsal Incident
A FOOT-LONG clothes brush which both a Helston headmaster and his school's senior mistress admitted using to beat two sixth form girls on their bare buttocks, was produced at Truro Magistrates Court on Thursday. John Lindsay Guise, late headmaster of Helston County Grammar Schools, and Mrs. Margaret Smith, the at-present suspended senior mistress, both pleaded guilty to two joint charges of common assault. Guise was fined a total of £50 and Mrs. Smith £30.
Defending Guise, Mr. Michael Hutchison said that his client had asked that the names of the two girls should not be used by the Press. The court had no power to order this nor, indeed, might they wish to do so. He added, "Mr. Guise is most anxious that nothing should happen which might prejudice the girls or prejudice the good name of the school."
The charges were brought under Section 47 of the Offences against the Person Act of 1864. They were jointly against Guise and Mrs. Smith that on April 29 they assaulted the two girls.
Guise pleaded guilty to both charges through Mr. Michael Hutchison. Mrs. Smith pleaded guilty to both through Mr. Lewis McCreery.
For the Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr. J. Wood said originally both defendants had been charged with assaults occasioning actual bodily harm. These charges were not being proceeded with because the prosecution were prepared to accept pleas of guilty to indictable common assault. He was prepared to have the cases dealt with summarily, the Court and defendants agreeing.
His reasons for the action were that their powers for dealing with indictable common assault were exactly the same as those for assault occasioning actual bodily harm. But there was a second more compelling reason. By pleading guilty to common assault the defendants had enabled him to dispense with witnesses. This was important because the two principal witnesses would have been the two 18-year-old girls, who would have had the humiliation of having to appear in the witness box to give details of the assaults upon them.
Mr. Wood enlarged that Guise, a man of 60 living at Dolphin-cottage, Porthleven, had been headmaster since 1953. Mrs. Smith was 58 and lived in Parc Venton, Helston. She had been senior mistress since 1951.
He added, "Both are persons of the highest character and have no previous convictions."
Turning to the events leading to the assaults, he said that on April 27 after school had finished for the day, five pupils (four sixth formers and one fourth former) went to the Green Room to rehearse acts from Shakespeare. They were all very fond of acting and perhaps they did this to celebrate the birth of Shakespeare which was about that time -- 400 years ago.
Two of the five were the girl "A," then 17 but now 18, and the girl "B," 18. They rehearsed for about half an hour. Then the girls paired off with two of the boys and "they engaged in kissing and cuddling -- no more than that."
Mr. Wood added, "Let me emphasise this because the punishment inflicted might seem to suggest they had been engaging in something like sexual intercourse ... There is no question of that. This was merely kissing and cuddling. This lasted for about half an hour, then all five of them left the Green Room and went home.
"One of the boys, slightly conscience-stricken, went to see Mr. Guise and told him what had happened."
On the morning of April 29 Guise called one of the girls -- girl "A" -- to his study. He told her the caretaker Mr. Hepworth had told him she had been "necking" in the Green Room on the Monday afternoon. Mr. Guise had made a point in his statement that Mr. Hepworth had told him about this but Mr. Hepworth said that he had only complained that there had been children in the room and that he had not mentioned anything indecent there or had even mentioned the girls' names.
The girl agreed with Mr. Guise that she had been necking. He told her he could not let things like this happen in a mixed school. He could make a public disgrace of the girl in front of the whole school. But not only would this go around the school. It would go around Helston and might also prejudice her entry into college.
The headmaster then told her "We can keep this private if you agree to be spanked by Mrs. Smith and me -- if you have the guts to take a spanking and keep quiet about it ..."
She told him she was prepared to be spanked as a form of punishment and she was told if she wrote a letter to him it would be all right. He did not dictate the letter to her but he did tell her what items he wanted included.
This letter was available to the Court. It said in effect that the girl was content to take her punishment in the form of a spanking. Mr. Guise then told her he could only punish her by spanking if she agreed to keep the whole matter secret and not tell anyone about it.
The next stage was that the girl was sent to Mrs. Smith's study and shortly afterwards Mrs. Smith came in. Mr. Guise followed her in and showed her the letter the girl had written.
He then told the girl to take off her jumper, skirt and under-skirt and to tuck her blouse in her knickers and pull up her knickers so that the buttocks were exposed. Mr. Guise and Mrs. Smith then lifted a table across the door.
"One wonders why that took place," Mr. Wood continued. "The reason probably is that the door of the study had no key and no doubt the table was put across to stop people coming in."
Mr. Guise told the girl to lean over the narrow end of the table. He told her to pull up her knickers again so that the buttocks were exposed. He stood behind the table on the girl's left and told her to hold his right hand. He also told the girl to look at him.
Mrs. Smith stood behind the girl and started to hit her on both buttocks with the back of the brush which he produced. The girl had said she hit her pretty hard and it hurt.
In her statement the girl added "I don't know how many times she hit me. I counted up to seven and then stopped counting. Mrs. Smith stopped hitting me. Mr. Guise asked me 'Are you sorry? Are you ashamed?' I said 'Yes.' He also asked me this again when Mrs. Smith hit me again later."
Mr. Guise then made the girl kneel between his knees sideways on and bend over as though to touch her toes. He got hold of her hands behind her back and then started to hit her with the same brush on her buttocks. He hit her a number of times -- the girl said about the same amount as Mrs. Smith.
She was allowed to get up and Mr. Guise said "She does not look very sorry. Perhaps she had better have some more." He told her to lean over the table again and once more Mrs. Smith hit her with the brush quite a number of times. The girl said it hurt very much more this time.
After Mrs. Smith had finished Mr. Guise put the girl over his knee once more and hit her again, again holding her hands behind her back. The girl said this hurt an "awful lot."
He stopped and asked her if she was sorry. She said she was sorry. Mr. Guise told her to stand over the table again. Mr. Guise and Mrs. Smith looked at her buttocks to see how bad the bruises were. Mr. Guise placed his hand on each of the girl's buttocks in turn and asked her if it hurt. She told him it did.
Mr. Wood commented that it was probably not too painful at the time because her buttocks were really rather numbed after the number of blows she had had.
The girl would have told the court she felt rather dazed and generally bewildered. For the next few days she was most unhappy. She had indigestion and could not eat and it generally had a marked effect on her.
In addition to this for the next two days Mr. Guise called her to his study and made her show him her bruises and he looked at them.
The prosecutor added "I am not suggesting that there was anything indecent about this. Probably Mr. Guise realised he had hit the girl too hard and was most anxious to see he had not done any lasting damage which would of necessity have meant the whole matter being brought into the open."
The girl's family doctor who examined her some 50 hours afterwards, found considerable bruising covering a very large area of about 72 square inches, 42 inches on the right side and 30 inches on the left with considerable thickening of the skin and hardening underneath the tissues. Pinpoints of blood showed.
This girl had said very fairly and frankly that she bruised easily, which might account to some extent for the very large area bruised.
Mr. Wood added "Nevertheless, medical evidence shows that this was a very severe beating."
The second girl was also called to Mr. Guise's study. He told her he had a serious matter to discuss. It was very serious because this was a mixed school. He would have to punish her and could either make this public and have her name bandied about Helston or she could be spanked in Mrs. Smith's study in private. The girl decided to have the spanking.
She was given a piece of paper and told to write how sorry she was and that she would agree to be spanked and not speak to anyone about the whole affair.
She told Mr. Guise she objected to being spanked by him as he was not her father. He said he was acting in loco parentis.
About 2.30 p.m. she went to his study and got the clothes brush from the cupboard where the other girl had returned it. They went to Mrs. Smith's room where he told her to tell Mrs. Smith she agreed to being spanked by him and the senior mistress. She promised not to tell anyone about it.
She was told to take off her jumper, skirt and underskirt and she helped Mr. Guise to put the table across the door. One of them asked her what she was wearing under her gym pants and she said she was wearing a pantee girdle combined. She was requested to take this off. She did this and replaced her gym pants.
Held her hand
Mr. Wood went on to describe how the girl was also made to lean over the table while the headmaster took hold of her hand and told her to look at him. Mrs. Smith pulled up her pants to expose the buttocks and then hit them with the brush.
To quote the girl's own words "It hurt terribly. I cried and looked away from Mr. Guise. He said 'Look at me, please,' and while I was being hit by the brush he held my hands in his."
Mr. Guise explained the hand-holding and the looking in the face in his statement which would be read later.
When the beating stopped Mr. Guise stood behind and put his hand on both of her buttocks, asking if it hurt. He sat down on a chair and told the girl that he would spank her over his knee. She bent over his knees and while he held her hands behind her back he hit her several times with the brush.
The girl had said "It hurt much more this time and I cried out several times. Mrs. Smith stood and watched." After this she was allowed to get up and dress in a corner of the room.
She, too, had to go to the head's study. She said he told her to take down her gym pants to see if there were any marks on her buttocks. He told her to bend over and said "Does it hurt." She said "No."
Mr. Wood said it was perfectly clear she had far less of a beating than the other girl, probably because she reacted far more. Perhaps Mr. Guise and Mrs. Smith realised they had been over-hard. He said "Certainly the first girl had a very severe beating and to her great credit took it like a trooper."
But the effect on the second girl was very substantial. The day after she was at home and her mother found her crying hysterically and she was extremely distressed. Eventually she told her mother what had happened and it was with great difficulty that they stopped her sobbing. The girl was so upset that she was about to go and see her priest. The police were informed.
The girl's doctor found bruising consistent with severe beating. Det. Inspector Williams made enquiries, seeing both defendants. He first saw Mrs. Smith who made two statements.
She originally explained that the Headmaster had told her the caretaker had reported two girls had been seen embracing boys in the Green Room. Later he called her into his room and showed the first girl's signed statement that she was prepared to take a beating rather than public exposure. The girl told her she was prepared for this. Mrs. Smith went on to describe the beating.
She had stopped beating the girl once or twice but Mr. Guise instructed her to go on. She did so until he told her to stop.
Took it bravely
She continued "I got the impression he thought she was unrepentant. He asked her if she was really sorry then he looked across at me and asked me if I thought she had had enough. I said yes because I thought she had. He told me to beat her again and he himself beat her again over his knee. The girl took it very bravely. He told her to bend over and called me to look, and he himself touched her buttocks with his hand and asked her if it hurt. Then the headmaster shook hands with her and said it would all be forgotten."
Mrs. Smith also stated "I would like to say that I am only the senior mistress, not the headmistress or even deputy head. Therefore I have to take orders from the headmaster. I know the county regulations permit a headmaster to instruct a senior mistress to beat girls. I do not know why he instructed me to give her a second beating after he had given her one himself. I think the headmaster thought she was still unrepentant. I think the second beating was unreasonable because she was quite badly bruised. I think it was unwise of the headmaster to touch her buttocks but I did not interfere because it would have undermined his influence with the pupils."
Of the second girl's case, Mrs. Smith said this one had made a similar statement and she confirmed it to the mistress. The headmaster told the girl to take off her suspender belt and put on her navy knickers again. She went into the corner to do this while he stood by the door where it was quite impossible for him to see her.
Mrs. Smith went on to describe the second girl's beating. He instructed the mistress to hit her but she did not think she gave her more than half a dozen. Then the headmaster repeated the beating over his knees. The girl whimpered quite a little.
The mistress continued in her statement "I do think this beating was quite a reasonable one and was not too severe nor too long. I do think the headmaster was unwise to touch the girl's buttocks and in pulling up her knickers but I was under his instructions and felt it improper to interfere."
Mr. Wood turned to the headmaster. Mr. Guise, he said, had made one statement which extended over two days. Beginning it the head said, "I would like to point out that Helston Grammar School is a mixed school, and misbehaviour of this sort is something we have to take very great care about, particularly in view of present trends. My senior mistress and I have always made it clear that any misdemeanours of this type will have the severest penalties. We have had cases of pregnant girls and I have been called in by parents. It would be culpable if we did not try to deter children from promiscuous conduct of this sort. This was a situation which seemed full of dangerous possibilities."
He went on to explain that the Green Room was very isolated. It was behind the school and did not have windows like the classrooms.
Mr. Guise spoke about interviewing the girls. He had not found it necessary to send for Mrs. Smith at this stage. She had a lot of responsibility with the sixth form and was also careers mistress.
He had told the girls separately he would have to consider demoting them which would mean public disgrace and do the school a lot of harm as this was an area where gossip expanded very fast. He had given them the alternative of being spanked by Mrs. Smith and himself. The first girl had no hesitation and asked him to make it the spanking. He told her it must be kept quite private by her as well as him otherwise he would have to see her parents.
The table was put across the door because there was no key. He had the girls stand with their legs apart to keep them in a steady position. He took their hands to stop them interfering with the punishment. He told them to look at him so that he could see any signs of distress and stop the spanking.
With the first girl at one stage Mrs. Smith stopped and looked at him. He nodded for her to continue the hitting because there were no signs of distress. It was not true that she was made to kneel. She did so on her own, and she put herself over his knees. He held the hands behind her back while he spanked her to hold her steady and put his right foot over her calves for the same reason. He told her he did not think she was sorry because he did not feel she was. He asked Mrs. Smith if she thought they should continue. Mrs. Smith was a little deaf and he did not know whether or not she heard him properly. She did not answer and he decided the spanking should continue. When the second spanking ceased he told the girl "I think you are sorry now."
Both he and Mrs. Smith looked to see if she was bruised and one of them, or perhaps both, pressed the buttocks to see if the bruise was spreading. Later that day she examined the girl again and felt the bruise to see if it was a bad one or not. It did not seem particularly severe. The same thing happened the next day when she mentioned that she bruised easily.
To the second girl he had made it clear the spanking would be by both him and Mrs. Smith. She hesitated and he explained he was doing this in loco parentis. In the mistress' room it was agreed the girl would also have to take off her belt and he looked out of the window while she was doing this. Of his own share in the beating he said he gave her several smacks but did not remember if she cried out. He knew she did not take it so quietly or so well as the other one and made more noise. He told her he would like to check if there was any bruising when she came to his study. She started to pull down her knickers but he stopped this because he had already satisfied himself the bruising was light. It was not true that she was told to take down her knickers. He did not want her to do that, and he stopped her as he saw what she was doing.
Mr. Wood continued that on May 5 Mr. Guise wrote to Mr. J.L. Harries, Secretary of Education for Cornwall a letter of resignation. He had said the investigation clearly made it impossible for him to continue as headmaster, though of course these allegations were emphatically denied. It appeared to him that the right thing to do was to offer his resignation which would assist the running of the school in the present circumstances.
He asked the secretary not to infer in tendering his resignation he was accepting that he had acted with any impropriety. He added "I have always had the best interest of the school at heart and it is in the belief that I can best further those interests that I have reached this decision, a very distressing one to have to make."
But, said Mr. Wood, Mr. Guise must have known he had broken the education regulations that the headmaster is not the right one to punish girls. He was well aware of that fact. In the first girl's case there had been a very merciless beating. The second one was not nearly so severe, but it had an even greater effect on its recipient. The punishment inflicted by Mr. Guise and Mrs. Smith was clearly excessive."
Mr. Wood emphasised that the reason these girls got this punishment was merely cuddling and kissing. One accepted that discipline was very necessary and that headmasters had to be very careful and strict.
He added "It is perhaps of some interest and significance that the boys who were involved were not punished in any way. One of them was not even called to the headmaster's study."
Detective Inspector Williams gave details of the defendants' characters and antecedents. He said Guise, who was 60, was born in Calcutta. He went to Oxford from Winchester and gained a degree in history. He went back to India where until 1927 he was employed as a tea broker in Calcutta. At the end of that contract he came back to England and started teaching at Winchester, where he stayed until the second World War.
He was called up for service with the London Fire Brigade where his services were no longer required in 1944. In 1945 he went to Adams Grammar School in Newport until he was appointed head at Helston in 1953. He was due to have retired in July this year. No convictions were recorded against him.
Mrs. Smith was 58 and was born near Barnsley, Yorkshire. She had a son of 23 and a daughter 18. She gained her B.A. Honours degree at the University College, London and was a mistress at Willesden until 1951 when she came to the Helston Grammar School.
Questioned by Mr. Hutchison, the detective inspector agreed that he had heard both these people were of the highest character. Asked if it were not a fact that Mr. Guise had helped the enquiries fully, he said, "I would not entirely go along with that. He was the most difficult man I have ever had to take a statement from."
Solicitor present He agreed the statement dealt with all the matters after Mr. Guise had been told he need not say anything at all. But at one stage the first day he had telephoned his solicitor. The second day his solicitor had been present at the interview.
In his plea to the Bench, Mr. Hutchison said Mr. Guise had announced his intention to retire before these events occurred. Of the fact that the boys had not been punished, he said it was a rule of the school that anyone who owned up to a breach of the rules would not be punished. One of the boys had done this and accordingly was not punished. He had learned from him the name of the other boy, but he did not feel himself at liberty to use this and he had no independent witness as to the other boy's name. If he had learned the name from an independent source the boy would certainly have been punished.
Mr. Guise had been due to retire at the end of this term after ten years in which he had made this an extraordinarily good school. ...
He made two mistakes which he now accepted. The first was beating these girls himself. He now recognised this was unwise and he should not have done so. His reason at the time was that he had grave doubts whether Mrs. Smith by herself would be able to cope with the situation. He thought it necessary to be there to assist.
His second mistake was going too far, and he now recognised that as well. He knew now he should not have beaten these two girls so hard.
Here was a man who had built up a good school, a strict disciplinarian who was faced with a serious situation just before he was about to retire. This might well lead to an error of judgment. But at the same time he had been suffering from bad health. .....
He very much regretted that the result of what occurred has been that these two girls who had elected to be punished so that they should not be disgraced had now had full publicity given to them and he was particularly concerned that this should have happened as a result of his actions.
He also regretted that Mrs. Smith was also charged with these two offences. He had the highest regard for her and her work at school was beyond praise. But in this case he was the headmaster and he told Mr. Hutchison that the responsibility for the decision was his. He was in charge and she was subject to his instructions. ......
For Mrs. Smith, Mr. McCreery said that the question of corporal punishment was open to divided opinion. ....
This question of corporal punishment for girls had been much discussed between Mr. Guise and Mrs. Smith through the years. She made it clear to him that the parents should always be consulted beforehand. Mr. Guise had made his attitude quite clear. He was the headmaster and she the subordinate and the decision on these matters was entirely his. He thought it proper to administer corporal punishment.
In this case he told her he thought a beating must be given and asked her to give it. She told him she thought the parents should be called in. But after assembly the next day Mr. Guise called in the girl and sent Mrs. Smith to her room. At that time she knew nothing about the agreement on the spanking. The first she knew of it was when the headmaster brought the girl to her room with the agreement she had signed. Even then she thought it would be reasonable chastisement, but it went too far.
The Bench announced their decision after a short retirement, the chairman stating that they had taken into account the previous good characters of both defendants.
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