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Victorian mugshots capture historical child beaters and rapists moments after arrest

Photographs are previously unseen by the general public

With their grubby, weathered features and surly expressions, they could be mistaken for the heavily made-up cast of a new Dickens film adaptation.

But the ragged men and women that feature in a new temporary photography exhibition curated by North Yorkshire Police are far from harmless movie characters.  

With crimes ranging from theft to child cruelty and rape, these photographs capture Victorian criminals immediately after arrest, and provide fascinating detail of their wretched existence – with charge sheets going as far as listing missing fingers or hands and any diseases the delinquents suffered from.

Previously unseen by the general public, the images were all captured between 1877 and 1930, and published in the Police Gazette trade magazine. They are believed to be among the first mug shots collected in Britain.

The Prevention of Crime Act 1871 made it a legal requirement that all people arrested for a crime must have their photographs taken.

Mug Shots runs at the Prison and Police Museum in St Marygate, Ripon until November 30.