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Cleary v. Booth

Queen's Bench Division
1 Q.B. 465 (1893)


Rule of Law

In England, a parent delegates authority to a school head master to inflict corporal punishment upon a child if the child acts badly going to and from the school.


Facts

Booth (defendant), a head master of a school, administered corporal punishment upon two boys after learning that they had fought on the way to the school. Booth was charged with, and convicted of, assault and battery. He appealed.

Issue

In England, does a parent delegate authority to a school head master to inflict corporal punishment upon a child if the child acts badly going to and from the school?

Holding and Reasoning (Lawrence, J.)

Yes. There is no question that a child is under the authority of a parent while at his home. It is also clear that a child is under the authority of the head master while at school. The issue is what authority the child is under while on his way from his home to school. Likely, the child may be said to be under the authority of the head master by way of delegated duty from the parent. In that instance, the head master possesses the right to inflict punishment upon the child when needed in order to raise the child correctly. The head master's authority extends not only to acts done by children while in school, but while going to and from school. Here, the two boys were on their way to school when they engaged in fighting. Booth was well within his right to punish the boys. The judgment of conviction is reversed.

Concurrence (Collins, J.)

The majority correctly held that the head master of a school possesses the authority to punish a child while going to and from school. It is clear law that a father has the right to inflict reasonable punishment on his son. It is equally the law that the father may delegate this right to a schoolmaster.  This authority must extend beyond the four walls of the school. It will be a question of fact in each case whether the head master acted outside of his delegated authority, but here Booth was right to inflict corporal punishment.