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Historic police custody photos show crooks caught 160 years ago!


West Midlands Police has released haunting images of crime suspects arrested more than 160 years ago in a series of police custody images believed to be among the oldest of their kind still in existence anywhere in the world!

The black and white photographs of Isaac Ellery and Catherine Legge were taken by the then Birmingham City Police back in the 1850s and are accompanied with handwritten notes of suspected offenders.

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Ellery was convicted in 1853 for stealing “gig cushions" and sentenced to seven years “transportation" − a Victorian punishment that saw offenders shipped to the colonies to serve sentences abroad. However, it appears even that failed to change his ways as he was convicted again in 1860 for producing counterfeit coins!

Details surrounding the alleged offences of Legge are unclear but these images provide a glimpse of policing more than a century-and-a-half ago.

In the early days, officers used the Moor Street public office cells and prisoners would be marched round to the nearby photographic studio and pose for pictures amongst paying customers.

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The force started producing its own photographs in around 1870 when those being held were snapped holding a chalk board with their details.

In 1891 a photographic studio, including a dark room, was created in the lock-up offices and styles of photos changed. There were periods where those arrested were asked to put their hands out in front of their body; and then in front of a number of mirrors giving a number of angles of one person.

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Over the years, advances in technology have seen the introduction of colour, computer databases and different styles... but the principle of bringing those convicted of offending to justice has remained the same.

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To find out more about early prisoner photography follow @WMPHistory on Twitter and Instagram, or by checking out Custody pictures from the archives are run each week using the #MugshotMonday hashtag.

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