What are the files about?

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What are the files about?

 

The files being released were created by the Home Office and the former Prison Commission (PCOM). The HO144 and HO45 files contain details of the arrest, conviction and appeal against conviction; they often contain contemporary newspaper clippings. The PCOM files contain the history of the convict from sentence to either execution or release on licence. They comprise prison governors' reports, also medical officers' reports, and records of punishments and prisoners' petitions.

All the women were sentenced to death and all sentences - except in the case of Dorothea Waddingham - were commuted. Home Office records show that many women were sentenced to death during the 20th century, but only 12 were hanged. It is difficult to generalise about why they did not hang but, in many of the cases, the judges and juries recommended mercy on compassionate grounds.

The cases on these files raise questions as to whether and how the treatment of female criminals has changed, but they also invite comparison between the circumstances of women before and after the introduction of social security, Child Support, legalised abortion etc.