UK:Alice Maud Marr, arrested for stealing door mats. Jailed for two weeks alonsgide family emmbers. Mediadrumimages/Tyne&WearArchives&Museums

By Alex Jones


COCKSURE, scared, or totally unphased: Mugshots of criminal teenagers dating back over 100 years ago capture a wide range of emotions as the juvenile offenders await their fate, hoping they wouldn’t have to serve their sentences alongside murderers, rapists and cutthroats.

Incredible photos, dating from 1902 to 1916, show the faces of troubled teens and pre-teens who have been hauled in for a wide range of petty crimes – ranging from stealing doormats to dine-and-dashing.

UK: 18-year-oldCharlotte Branney. Court report states: “Charlotte Branney (18), who hails from Murton Colliery, was formerly in domestic service with Ed. McHugh, eating-house keeper, New Quay, North Shields. On August 26th she obtained a day’s leave and, after she was gone, a jacket was missed from a stand in the hall. Next day she left altogether and so did a skirt from the bedroom. Charlotte was apprehended at Seaham Harbour and brought back to explain. This she did by pleading guilty to stealing the skirt but, as to the jacket, she said she only borrowed that for the afternoon. Being afraid of detection on her return she threw it over a fence near her mistresses’s house and it was gone the next morning.” Imprisoned for two weeks. Mediadrumimages/Tyne&WearArchives&Museums

The candid shots, featuring young offenders who were brought before the North Shields Police Court in Newcastle, show children as young as 12 standing before the police photographer – some shamefaced, some scared and others seemingly at peace with their misdemeanours.

If imprisoned the children would spend time in non-age-restricted prison, serving their sentences alongside all manner of nefarious and dangerous criminals.

UK: 14-year-old William Wade alias ‘Nursay’. Stole blankets and fish in two separate incidents. Spent four weeks in prison for his crimes. .Mediadrumimages/Tyne&WearArchives&Museums

In the Victorian era, which ended just before these young offenders were processed, children as young as ten who were caught breaking the law could find themselves thrown into prison with adult offenders, in the workhouse, or even facing deportation to Australia.

It was not until 1847 that the Juvenile Offenders Act was enacted, the first legislation to distinguish between adults and children for justice purposes. It allowed children under 14 to be tried for some lesser offences summarily in a magistrates’ court.

UK: 17-year-old 1)Alfred Yarrow. He stole one shirt and 4½ yards of cotton, value 4s 11d, from his mother, Jane Yarrow. He received six weeks in prison. Mediadrumimages/Tyne&WearArchives&Museums

In 1854 the Youthful Offenders Act allowed courts to sentence children under 16 to a stint in a reformatory for between two and five years as an alternative to prison – but they must serve an initial 14 days in prison. That was the fate that awaited more of these perpetrators.

The next crucial law change took place in 1908 when the Children Act was brought into law. This legislation established a separate juvenile court for the first time dealing with both crime and welfare issues; abolished custody for children below 14 in the juvenile court; and introduced new short-term sentences for detention in police-run remand homes. Being whipped by a birch cane was still considered a viable punishment too.