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Lord Chief Justice Alexander Cockburn
Lord Chief Justice Alexander Cockburn

The Eastbourne manslaughter (R v Hopley) was an 1860 legal case in Eastbourne, England, about the death of a teenage pupil at the hands of his teacher, Thomas Hopley. Reginald Cancellor's parents gave Hopley permission to use corporal punishment to overcome what he perceived as the boy's stubbornness. After the boy died, the teacher insisted that the beating was justifiable and that he was not guilty of any crime. An inquest into Cancellor's death began when his brother requested an autopsy. As a result of the inquest Hopley was arrested and charged with manslaughter. Hopley's jury trial took place at Lewes Assizes, before Sir Alexander Cockburn (pictured), who was the Chief Justice of the Queen's Bench. Hopley was found guilty at trial and sentenced to four years in prison. In Cockburn's words, a schoolmaster "may for the purpose of correcting what is evil in the child, inflict moderate and reasonable corporal punishment". The trial was sensationalised by the Victorian press and incited debate over the use of corporal punishment in schools. Physical discipline was officially banned in British schools more than a century later. (Full article...)

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