I periodically post old mugshots which offer a gritty insight into criminal history. The West Midlands Police just released some gems from their archives including what is believed to be the oldest mugshot in British history. That distinction rests with Isaac Ellery who was convicted in March 1853 and sentenced to seven years transportation for stealing four ‘gig’ cushions.
Police in Birmingham were the first police force in the world to take mugshots.
Ellerty’s sentence reveals the harshest of the Victorian criminal system in the Nineteenth Century. Transportation was often an alternative to hanging and the felon was sent to Australia or the colonies. Any sentence above seven years could result in transportation.
Between 1788 and 1868, 165,000 convicts were transported to Australia. Many were sentenced to terms between 7 and 14 years. Once your term was served, there was no transportation back to England.