Guesswork and the release of murderer Harold Jones

Harold Jones in jail in 1921

Thanks goodness deference to authority largely gets the middle finger today.

This means we can give short shrift to claptrap like this: ‘Sadistic crime is probably more rare in England than in any other country in the world. Curiously enough, even the few known exponents in our English records are apt to bear an alien name.’

So, just to be clear – sadism is a vice of foreign blighters. The English do not stoop to such shameful behaviour.

This view, voiced in 1941, was not that of some loudmouth in a pub after one too many. It was the opinion of the Commissioner of Prisons, Alexander Paterson.

Sadism and cruelty

The problem he faced was what to do with Harold Jones, who had been convicted of murdering two little girls when he was 15. In 1941 Jones had served 20 years, considered a ‘life’ term at the time.

During his incarceration, the consensus had been that Jones was a sadist who showed no remorse. Senior medical officer W Norwood East reported that for Jones ‘the sexual act reaches its highest gratification when accompanied by cruelty’.

In 1936 the governor of Maidstone prison, B Grew, was damning, ‘Sad as it may seem I can see no hopeful prospects for Jones in the future.’

But by 1941 Paterson was effectively muddying the waters. The medical profession really knows little about sadism, he suggested. 

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