The broadside shown here details the case of a 12 year old boy prosecuted for attempted burglary in 1829. Though young defendants were frequently found guilty and sentenced to death, by the late 18th century juveniles rarely perished on the gallows in Britain (though one boy of 14 years was executed for murder in Maidstone, Kent, as late as 1831). In general young boys and girls found guilty of committing felonies received sentences of transportation to Australia and other far-flung colonies.
Concerns with levels of juvenile crime grew rapidly in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, particularly after several pamphlets were published detailing the activities of organized gangs. London magistrate Patrick Colquhoun for example produced several pamphlets in the 1790s detailing the specific activities of the gangs of boys active along the Thames river front, which he believed cost merchants nearly £1 million each year in stolen property. Such prejudices against poor young boys were widely held in the first half of the 19th century and were reproduced in popular literature, most famously in Fagin’s gang of pickpocketing youths depicted by Charles Dickens’ in Oliver Twist.