This week we take a look back through our incredible collection of prisoner mugshots from the Birmingham City Police, at some offences that readers may not be familiar with, as they have long since been decriminalised, or the legal terminology has changed considerably.
Take Frederick Clarke, a confectioner, who was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment in 1884 at the Stafford Assizes, for committing sacrilege at churches in Harborne, Handsworth and West Bromwich. The term sacrilege is defined as ‘violation or misuse of what is regarded as sacred. It is likely he damaged the churches in some way.
John Carless was convicted of ‘attempting to have carnal knowledge’ in March 1907 and sentenced to four months in prison. ‘Carnal knowledge’ is a historic euphemism for having sexual intercourse and could relate to illegal sexual relations with a child or an unmarried woman. His record indicates he had a glass eye and he had a tattoo of a woman with the word NELLIE.
Mary Jayes, along with her husband Charles Jayes (alias Highty Tighty!) was charged with making base coins on 9th May 1885 when officers forced entry into their address and found them in one of the bedrooms busily making counterfeit coins. After initially being remanded, Mary was subsequently discharged at court. Base coins are another term for debased or adulterated (forged) coins.
Here is another offence you don’t hear any more – Ann Belton’s record indicates ‘wearing apparel – trousers’. This did make us question if the wearing of trousers was the offence (not acceptable for women in Victorian society!) however we believe the offence is actually stealing the clothes from another person.
Michael Nugent, aged 40, was convicted in 1907 of attempting to commit suicide. To think in years gone by, a person struggling so hard to cope with life, where the only option they feel that remains for them is to take their own life, would be further punished by being sent to prison. Life in Victorian society was cruel indeed. Michael was sent to prison for 6 months. Attempting to commit suicide remained a crime until 1961.