Flogging and whipping abolished

17 September 1941

A cat-o’-nine-tails (New Zealand Police Museum Collection, 2009/2019/5)

As well as (temporarily) doing away with capital punishment for murder, the Crimes Amendment Act 1941 abolished judicial provision for flogging and whipping. These punishments had been introduced – initially for juveniles – from 1867 and by 1893 applied to a number of (mainly sexual) offences by adult men. In New Zealand, unlike the United Kingdom, corporal punishment was always inflicted behind prison walls.

Just 17 men were flogged – receiving between 10 and 15 strokes of the ‘cat’ – between 1919 and 1935, when the last flogging took place. Fourteen of them had committed sexual offences.

Until 1936 youths aged under 16 could be whipped for a wider variety of offences than adults. In practice, the punishment was imposed on boys mainly for theft, breaking and entering, and wilful damage.

New Zealand branches of the Howard League had campaigned against both corporal and capital punishment since the 1920s. When the death penalty was reintroduced in 1950, flogging was not. It had had no apparent deterrent effect, and its removal had not been followed by increased violence in prisons.