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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 September, 2004, 15:19 GMT 16:19 UK
Mayor may axe child spanking rite
Poole Civic Centre
Councillors will meet to discuss breaking the tradition
A 350-year-old ritual in which a boy and girl get a mock beating from the mayor of their town could be scrapped because of fears over child abuse.

In the "beating of the bounds" ceremony in Poole, Dorset, the mayor pretends to prick a girl on the hand with a bodkin needle and spank a boy on the bottom.

But the council may scrap the event after a flurry of complaints.

The Society of Poole Men organised the event in June and dismissed criticism as "politically correct".

The mayor does not touch the children - he slaps his own hands behind the boy's bum
Poole Borough Council spokeswoman

Beating of the parish boundaries has taken place around the UK for hundreds of years, but it is thought Poole is the only place to still involve children in this way.

The so-called "points and pins" ceremony was once intended to encourage youngsters to remember the parish boundaries.

A report in the latest Society of Poole Men newsletter said: "The bailiff made his presentments to the mayor, noting that the society had been urged to change the "points" ceremony from lashing the boy on that part of the anatomy meant for thrashing, to lashing the hand - in case someone took photographs with ulterior motives.

"This politically-correct approach was resisted and the mayor agreed.

"Everybody then retired into the civic centre for a cream tea to close a memorable and enjoyable day."

A spokeswoman for Poole Borough Council said: "Although the mayor does not touch the children - he slaps his own hands behind the boy's bum - it has been suggested that maybe it is not appropriate for a statutory authority with a remit to protect children to be involved.

"To discontinue a tradition always provokes a reaction, but the council wants to give this careful thought."

Council leaders and officials will meet to discuss whether to take part in future ceremonies.

An NSPCC spokesperson said: "Mimicking the hitting of a child sends out the wrong message that hitting children is OK, but it is not."

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