Judicial Corporal Punishment


Inspired by this prompt. In an AU where corporal punishment is still on the statute books, John's ASBO becomes something he won't forget in a hurry

WARNINGS: Unremitting whumping of John, corporal punishment of a minor, whipping

RATING: 15/R/M – for detailed violence

Beta'd by the brilliant redchapel and somewhatvaguely

John trudged up the stairs to 221B, his wrists and shoulder aching from the handcuffs the overly eager Community Support Officer had slapped on him. As he walked in the door, Sherlock, without looking up, stated in an irritated tone, "You've been a while."

"Yeah, well you know how it is… Custody Sergeants don't like to be hurried, do they? Just formalities. Finger prints; a charge sheet. And I'll have to be at the Magistrates' Court on Tuesday…" John griped at Sherlock, feeling tired and annoyed.

"What?" Sherlock interrupted, clearly uninterested in anything John had been saying.

"Me, Sherlock! In court Tuesday. They could sentence me to the Pillory! Criminal Damage!" John replied, pretending Sherlock was interested, his voice rising with each exclamation.

"Good. Fine." Sherlock muttered distractedly, turning away from John to look at the collage taped and pinned to the wall.

On Tuesday, John presented himself to the City of London Magistrates' Court alone.

The Magistrates' Court is located in a distinctive triangular building outside exit 8 of Bank station on the corner of Queen Victoria St. and Walbrook. The building is, in some people's eyes, a Victorian monstrosity of the Greek revival period. The Court contains four court rooms and ten cells. As with most of the older buildings in the City it is heavily listed and costs more to maintain than it takes in fines.

As a magistrates' court it has an unusual case load due to the City's financial role and had John been arrested anywhere other than the National Gallery he would have been at Tower Bridge Magistrates' Court. There is no juvenile or family court division and it sees little in the way of domestic burglary or street crime.

The listed status of the National Gallery created the possibility of a prison sentence allowing John to make use of the duty solicitor. Who had advised John to plead guilty and to present his psychiatrist's diagnosis as mitigating circumstances.

The Crown Prosecutor, a well-dressed man in his early thirties, looked down his nose at John from the moment he entered the Court. John could almost hear him thinking, this why the lower classes must be kept down.

After John pled the prosecutor began detailing his case, making great weight of John's RAMC service and medical qualification as proof that he was both mentally competent and in a position of responsibility. He made elusions to drug use and pointed out that John had been caught holding the can of paint used to deface the National Gallery. When John was finally allowed to speak his character had been painted so black that the previously friendly looking Magistrate scowled down at him.

To John's dismay, nothing that the Prosecutor had said was false. The Prosecutor had carefully phrased his diatribe, never to state outright that John had been the one to vandalise the wall, emphasising that he had been the only member of the gang involved to be caught. John could only present Ella's diagnosis and hope for some leniency.

After a quick discussion with the matronly clerk, the Magistrate sat up straight, and said, "I hereby sentence the defendant, Doctor John Hamish Watson, to nine strokes at the Charing Cross pillory and a fine of 1,000 pounds." John felt his stomach drop. Nine strokes with a switch. His mind reeled; throughout his army career he had avoided the switch. Swallowing he remembered childhood trips to the headmaster's office. He forcefully pulled himself together just as the Magistrate continued. "You will be required to present details of your income and expenditure."

The words 'a fine of £1000' finally filtered through his mind. "Your Worships, I'm on an army pension. I don't have a thousand pounds." He tried to address the bench, panic pouring through his body. If he couldn't pay the fine, they would put him in prison. He could feel the gloomy edifice of the workhouse looming behind him.

The Magistrate continued without hearing him, "The whipping will take place at," the clerk opened a book, "10am on Friday. You will be held until the sentence is carried out. If you feel that your sentence is unjust you may file an appeal against this ruling within the next forty-eight hours. Next case!"

At 8:00 Friday morning, John and seven other prisoners were shoved into a police van to be transported to Charing Cross for the day's session. The guards and police felt no need to be gentle or spare the prisoners. Laughing and joking amongst themselves and discussing which executioners were scheduled for the thirty minute drive. The cheerful discussions of how brutal the various executioners were rose goose bumps on John's chilled flesh, the prisoner opposite him looked decidedly green.

At 8:30, London is still hazy with mist off the Thames. It got under the thin layer of John's clothes to wrap like cold fingers around his limbs, grasping; pulling him into its murky embrace. Pushed forcefully from the van, the prisoners, shivering, shuffled across the square to be chained to a robust metal bench. The two youngest prisoners were stripped of their shirts and placed in the pillory. As his punishment was not until 10, John had to wait chained to the prisoners' bench with four other men.

The pillory at Charing Cross is a metal pole with two reinforced hinged wooden boards atop a raised wooden platform. Both the pillory and the prisoners' bench are open to the elements while the guards and executioners have a small hut. The platform is circular with a fenced walkway from the bench and the hut. There is space for vendors and a crowd to gather with a good view of all prisoners. Memories of being a student in London told John that at Charing Cross they sold mainly cheap beer and baked potatoes, not rotten eggs like at the whipping post in his home town.

Prisoners are secured in the pillory for any length of time between one and forty-eight hours; other sentences, such as whippings, are carried out while the prisoners are secured. There are two pillory posts set up to prevent prisoners from colluding or encouraging each other, whilst enabling them to see the others' punishments being carried out. Permanent damage is not performed at the Charing Cross pillory. All decapitations are carried out by licensed health care professionals in the prison hospital.

The first two prisoners were juveniles on their first offense. They would be subjected to a birching and one hour in the pillory. As the first prisoners to be punished, a crowd would be less likely to form and the boys' punishment viewed, except by particularly interested individuals. The boys howled their way through the birching; John cringed in sympathy.

A small crowd—some carrying bulging carrier bags, some commuters lured by the boys' screaming, some local residents—began gathering, enthusiastically cheering on the executioners in their birching.

One of the prisoners to John's right muttered something about "whiney little buggers; have to bloody draw a crowd."

In their prison-issue fluorescent shirts and trousers, it was a cold, damp, and miserable wait for the boys to be released from the pillory, handed their possessions, and told to "bugger off, you scumbags and don't let me see you here again!" by one of the guards gripping a worryingly stout switch.

Over the course of the hour the boys had been in the pillory, the crowd had grown significantly, getting rowdier as it grew. During the first three quarters of an hour no one had thrown anything; in the last, one boy had been coated in egg and the other pelted with rotten tomatoes. By the time they were released, they were filthy and bright red with embarrassment. To leave the pillory square they had to walk through the crowd, which continued to mush rotten fruits and vegetables in their faces.

The guards and executioners made no effort to clean the platform before unchaining John and the pasty-looking prisoner to his left. They were pushed onto the platform as the crowd jeered and goaded on the guards.

The guard holding him jerked John's shirt over his head before he got to the pillory, yanking his bad shoulder. Blindly, John slipped and stumbled and the guard yanked him by his handcuffs. Only when they got to the pillory did the guard pull the shirt off John's head, then pushed him violently into the lower plank and slammed the upper plank down hard enough to bruise. The guard removed the handcuffs, dropping John's shirt in the mess on the platform.

To his side, John could hear the pasty prisoner vomiting; the crowd roared with laughter.

The guards moved away from them and the executioners stepped forward to cat calls from the crowd. John could see that the executioner for the pasty prisoner had a switch in hand. He sighed with relief just as pain exploded over nine separate parts of his back. He bit down hard on his lip to stifle a scream, feeling his mouth fill with the salty tang of blood. The crowd yelled out encouragements to the executioner to whip him harder.

The second stroke fell lower down his back, coming as less of a surprise but harder than the first. John let out a moan, even biting on his lip as hard as he dared. The small moan was unnoticed by the mob, who screamed out "Harder! Harder!"

The third stroke broke skin for the first time, landing even harder than the second. His mouth opened to scream, but John managed to choke it back. Next to him, the pasty prisoner was screaming and blubbering, his skin barely bruised.

The fourth stroke fell on previously marked skin, splitting it and finally drawing a scream from John. The crowd went wild, drawing John's pain-hazed gaze to its lone silent member. There in the crowd, watching him being whipped, was Sherlock.

John locked anger-filled eyes on Sherlock's form as the fifth stroke fell, crossing over previously opened welts. He screamed more due to the rage bubbling under his skin than pain, looking at Sherlock standing calmly in front of him.

The sixth stroke caught the edge of his scar as a tail wrapped over his shoulder, ripping through the recently healed tissue. John's vision greyed out. When he came back to himself, the pasty prisoner's switching had finished and he was blubbering next to John. The crowd was jeering at the man's cowardice.

The hot itchy feeling of anger mixed with the heavy sick feeling of betrayal for a moment overwhelming the all-encompassing pain that made it impossible to think. Before subsiding as the seventh stroke hit lower again, twisting around his rib cage. By this point John could not hold the screams inside.

The eighth stroke greyed his vision again, one of the tails falling below his waist to wrap around a thigh. Through his trousers it couldn't break skin, but it still brought tears to his eyes.

The ninth stroke hit him firmly in his core, knocking all of the air out of him.

He hung waiting for the next stroke.

Something hit him on the shoulder, splattering and running painfully through his cuts.

Then something else, this time on his back. And again. And again. Until he couldn't count the individual hits, just knew the feel of being hit.

He hung there being hit for an indeterminate length of time until a guard roughly shoved the upper plank away, grabbed him, and dragged him down from the platform, as John stumbled, slipping and sliding on the uneven surface.

It felt unreal, a dreamlike. Then he was standing by the guards' hut being handed his things and there was a commotion behind him.

"John, John. Are you okay?" The voice, Sherlock he guessed muzzily, was agitated, maybe even concerned.

The guard holding him let go and John's feet slipped from under him. Sherlock caught him along his open cuts, causing John to black out.

"You okay with him, mate?" the guard asked.

"Of course," Sherlock replied his voice scathing.

John woke up in his room to the feel of a warm flannel gently moving across his skin. Thrown, he writhed, trying to get away.

A gentle, if slightly damp, hand moved through his hair. "Stay still," Sherlock curtly ordered, picking the flannel back up. "I need to clean you up."

John felt disconnected from reality – like part of him, most of him, was still hanging on the pillory feeling the whip crack against his back. Like nothing happening here was real.

Sherlock was silent as he slowly washed John. He watched John's eyes flutter closed and his breathing deepen again. Under the muck Sherlock removed, John's skin was grey.

Sighing, Sherlock picked up the blood-stained water bowl and left the room.

Dr. Sarah Sawyer oozed bland middle class from every pore, but she had come when Sherlock called, concerned that John needed stitches. She had rushed up the 17 steps to 221B and barely stopped to listen to Sherlock's directions on the way to John's room. A new large leather bag bounced on her back as she made her way up the stairs.

Following at a more sedate pace, Sherlock found her, her gloved hands hovering over John's back tracing the air above each of the wounds. Laid on the bedside cabinet were paper and saline. She glanced across towards Sherlock with a questioning gaze. He dropped his eyes to John to evade her questions.

Her stance stiffened and the sympathy in her eyes dimmed. She turned to lay out pre-filled syringes, and pre-threaded needles before she touched the wounds she injected an anaesthetic into the edges. Sherlock hovered uncertainly at the door, watching as she methodically flushed and stitched each slice.

It took her over an hour to finish carefully stitching John's back together, during which time neither John nor Sherlock stirred. Once she was finally done stitching, she stood up straight, cracking her back and she again looked questioningly at Sherlock. Still he remained silent, his eyes looking passed her to the unconscious form of his flatmate.

She looked down at the ground, her shoulders tight before violently ripping her gloves off. Sighing, she dug out two packages, the first containing a tube that she daubed carefully over the wounds she had treated.

"It's an antibacterial cream," she said turning with the tube in hand. "He'll need it on three times a day and to visit his doctor if there are any signs of infection." She packed away the things she had not used and threw the dirties in the bin. She looked down at John one last time. Then she squeezed past Sherlock, dropping the tube and a pack of pills into his hand. Turning at the edge of the stairs, she said coolly, "Tell him he won't be needed at the surgery after all."

The next time John woke up it was to the cool, slightly stinging sensation of a cream being smoothed onto his back. His throat was dry and his back tight. He blinked slowly, his limbs too heavy to move, as memory slowly returned. Humiliation swept through him, heating his chilled body, as he remembered the crowd jeering and laughing at him.

The bed creaked and dipped, bringing Sherlock in to view. "Idiot," Sherlock said. "You should have pled not guilty." His fingers continued slowly easing the cream into each wound.

Gathering the anger growing inside, John attempted to wrench himself away but Sherlock caught his arms. "Stay still!" Sherlock grumbled, holding John down until he wore himself out.

John subsided, slowly feeling hot, frustrated tears welling in his eyes and sobs beginning to shake his body. Sherlock released John's wrists as John went limp beneath him. "You'll tear your stitches," Sherlock murmured, running gentle fingers through John's hair.

John's sobs increased in force as he remembered the fine. Each sob ripped through his back making the dull ache flare. Sherlock returned to dab cream gently over the welts.

Slowly, John's control returned, pulling the anger and hurt back inside. Under Sherlock's hands the tension slowly ebbed from John. With a deep sigh John asked in a choked voice, "Why?"

"You were supposed to run." Sherlock replied resignedly as he wiped his hands and bandaged John's back.

An awkward silence fell as Sherlock tidied away the accoutrements of caring for John's wounds and John tried to process Sherlock's reply. Finally Sherlock stood noisily, "I'll get you some juice."