Anyone convicted of a criminal offence and certified as insane, either at court or afterwards in prison, was admitted to an asylum as a criminal lunatic. Their crimes ranged from murder, manslaughter and assault through to theft, burglary and attempting to commit suicide. The most dangerous prisoners were housed at the national Criminal Lunatic Asylum: for England and Wales, this was Broadmoor; for Scotland, it was in Perth. However, criminal lunatics who were judged to be harmless were sent to county asylums.
Regardless of the crime or the length of sentence, criminal lunatics could only be admitted to asylums under warrant from the Secretary of State for the Home Office. If they were cured while in the asylum, they could be returned to prison to serve out the rest of their sentence.
However, it was more common for criminal lunatics to stay in the asylum after their custodial warrants had expired, after which time they became pauper lunatics.
Charles Henry Jones, aged 16, was convicted of larceny at Salford on 26 October 1880 and sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment in Strangeways and five years’ police supervision. Not long before the end of his sentence, he was found to be insane. His criminal lunacy warrant dated 22 March 1882 confirms that he was admitted to Prestwich Lunatic Asylum.
The asylum register states he was discharged on 14 September 1882, staying for just under six months. Checking prison records as well as asylum documents can shed some light on why criminal lunatics committed their crimes.
The day room for male patients at the Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum in 1867