Find My Past UK has released the first tranche of a collections of records dealing with crime, prisons and punishment. It's the first time they've been online, and they cover the period 1817-1931.
The original records are held by The National Archives in Kew, London, and FindMyPast has spent the last two years scanning and transcribing them. They contain the kind of information that isn't usually found in other records, and can give you a real idea of what your ancestor was like. Even more, many of the records include photos: the mugshot!
Additional records, covering 1770-1934, will be added in the coming months to make up a total collection of 2.5million records.
Here's details of what a random search threw up for me:
Patrick Driscoll, born 1813, was convicted in 1830 at Bristol Court, of 'Breaking open a dwelling house and stealing £16 2shillings.' He was sentenced to 14 years. The Gaoler's Report says this was not his first term in prison and describes his 'character, disposition, connections and former life' as 'very bad'.
UPDATE 11.30am: This collection seems to have caught the imagination of family historians, and that enthusiasm has overwhelmed the site this morning. I tried for a couple of hours before getting the above successful search return. Even then, the image was slow to download. Probably as well to 'come back later'.