A recent mention in a social media site led me to a startling piece in the national press recently about how the criminal justice system treated young teenage boys in late Victorian London.
The press story was occasioned by the discovery of a series photographs of boy offenders from Wandsworth Prison in December 1872 to January 1873.
Most of these so=called child criminals were arrested or brutally punished for stealing seemingly petty items that would barely warrant a police caution today. Usually, young children were sent to an adult prison.
It was not until the 1908 Children's Act that changes were made to the way child offenders were punished. Juvenile courts were introduced and children could no longer be placed in adult prisons or executed for capital crimes - however minors could still be whipped. Birching was a judicial penalty in both juvenile and adult cases until 1948.
A selection of the photos are reproduced below. There were a good number that included whipping or birching in the sentences, but I haven't included those. No doubt some local boys found themselves incarcerated alongside these poor young unfortunates.
William Jowers, 12, was given one month hard labour at Wandsworth Prison for stealing two live tame rabbits in December 1872
James Leadbetter, 11, was whipped and given four days hard labour at Wandsworth Prison for stealing celery in January, 1873
Samuel Snooks, 15, was given 10 days hard labour at Wandsworth Prison for stealing metal pipes worth 5 shillings in December 1872 - in 1881 was a prisomer in Clerkenwell prison, dog given as builder's labourer, aged 23
John Webb, 13, was given 21 days hard labour at Wandsworth Prison for stealing four loaves of bread and a pot of jam, in December 1872
Thomas White, 13, was given one months hard labour at Wandsworth Prison for stealing 10 shillings in January, 1873
Thomas Goodstone, 14, was given 14 days hard labour at Wandsworth Prison for stealing seven lbs of pork over the Christmas period in 1872
Thomas Thompson, 14, was given 21 days hard labour at Wandsworth Prison for stealing one shilling in January, 1873
Shifty looking bunch, especially the last one.
I want to go bail for young Tommy Thompson. In Jan 1873 he got three weeks' hard labour in Wandsworth over nicking a bob, while in the same month that young scamp Tommy White just got four weeks' hard labour for stealing ten bob. Is there no justice in this town? Or was 14 regarded as adult for Wandsworth offenders? Or did the magistrate simply not like the way Tommy Thompson looked at him, or the way he buttoned his waistcoat? But then, too, wee Willie Jowers at 12 got four weeks' hard for making off with a couple of rabbits, while that villain Sam Snooks at 15, a born criminal if you ever saw one, just got ten days' hard in the same month, Dec '72 for stealing 5/- worth of metal pipes.
Did this story come from The Sun? More pics at https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/7002500/victorian-mugshots-reveal-str...
As I said in the original post, I came across it on a Facebook Group and then found the story in the National press. I think it was covered in various papers. The version I used was, I think, the Daily Mail one.
What a really sad looking lot of "kids" they are. So impoverished judging by their general appearance. If only they could relay their life stories..................