Paris Police 1900 – The story behind the character Bertillon – the father of French forensic science

Watching Paris Police 1900, I was fascinated to see one of the characters was Bertillon. He was a real figure. Alphonse Bertillon was a French police officer and biometrics researcher who created anthropometry, an identification system based on physical measurements. Anthropometry was the first scientific system used by police to identify criminals. I first came across him when I wrote a monograph on the history of the mugshot. Bertillon was the inventor of the mugshot, as we now know it. He was keen to apply science to policing and that he knew that the only way, at the time, to identify a criminal was their name, personal identification or they had been preserved in the newly developed art of photography. The catalyst for my taking on this research was the release of poignant if much more relaxed pictures of ‘criminals’ taken in Dorchester in the early Victorian period and that predate the Bertillon system. Here are three examples.

The Juvenile Offender: Luther Gosney 10 years old. In 1876 he was committed to Dorset County Gaol charged with stealing two tin horns valued at 8d.  It was his first offence and he was sentenced him to twenty one days in gaol followed by five years in Reformatory.
George Scammell tried 4 July 1883 found guilty of obtaining money by false pretences.  Aged 56 years – sentenced to 12 months hard labour and two years police supervision.
Juvenile Offender: Priscilla Penfold. 12 years old.  She was charged with stealing a cloak valued at 25s.  She was sentenced to one month in gaol and five years in Reformatory for her first offence. 

I was struck by the difference between that an mugshots I have used to illustrate articles as journalist like Winston Silcott and Myra Hindley’s.

Bertillon systematised the photograph as a means of identification, the front and side phot and fitted it into his card record system. In my paper I argue that the mugshot’s simplicity of framing and purpose is deceptive. The mugshot genre has come to carry, sometimes on a case by case basis, an extraordinary array of meaning: spectacle, punitive, shaming, power, desire, cultural, surveillance, psychoanalytical, philosophical, psychoanalytic, criminological, colonialism, historic, transgression, deviance and art.

The mugshot is one of the simplest forms of the photograph: a rectangle, a head and shoulders image of a human being. It is planned, posed but deliberately decontextualized. The photographer is required by the judicial authorities to capture the best detailed image of the suspect that is allowed in the circumstances. Its purpose is functional and bureaucratic primarily for future registration, identification and classification. The modalities of the mugshot are deliberately limited.

I also discussed whether the systematic approach made it easier to the extend the immediate recognistion of the mugshot as casting the individual as a criminal but that was used by the Nazis to criminalise jewish people, as with the infamous Auschwitz photos. If you would like to see the original article it will be through the journal Social Semiotics (only through academic systems) or through the Brunel University open access system. The grisly Paris Police 1900 series can be seen on BBC iPlayer.

Paul Lashmar

From Kartika Sukarno, the daughter of the President that the British government wanted toppled. Follows our recent expose in The Observer of how the Foreign Office secretly encouraged those engaged in a mass murder campaign.

Britain owes an apology to my father and millions of other Indonesians

How the Queen and Prince Charles came to pay income tax

Back in June 1991, a programme I had made for Granada TV’s current affairs series, World in Action, entitled ‘The Firm’, was broadcast revealing much about the Royal Family’s wealth and tax arrangements. I had worked closely with Phillip Hall, whose book on the subject, ‘Royal Fortune’ was published the next year. Phil had spent a decade investigating the Queen’s wealth. At the time, the Queen and Prince of Wales were not paying income tax.  For most members of the public, who concerned themselves with such matters thought that not being required to pay tax was privilege of the Royals throughout history.. The most significant strand of the programme’s research was to show that there was no historical basis for the tax exemption and that tax had been paid by all the Queen’s predecessors except her father, George VI (d 1952) who had been the first monarch to have negotiated an exemption for income tax. (Modern income tax is generally accepted to have been first implemented in 1799).

Before 1760 the monarch met all official expenses from hereditary revenues, which included the profits of the Crown Estate (the royal property portfolio). King George III agreed to surrender the hereditary revenues of the Crown in return for payments called the Civil List. Our research showed that members of the royal family had subsequently negotiated a series of favourable tax and financial arrangements over the years. The number of members of the family paid out of the public funds to the Civil List had grown over the years.

We had also a considered attempt at estimating the Queen’s wealth – which is veiled in secrecy – and put her as one of the wealthiest women in the world worth £7.7bn. Her assets were and are enormous, though it fair to say, much is held on behalf of the nation like her astonishing collection of art including Michaelangelo drawings. some is purely commercial. Prince Charles has turned the massive land ownings of the Duchy of Cornwall into a lucrative business for the family.

I also wrote an article of the Sunday Independent ‘Secret Deals let Queen avoid her income tax’. (see attached pdf)

Directed by Brian Blake, the programme had a massive impact at the time including a Private Eye cover. It is probably the most impactful piece of journalism of my career with a direct cause and effect. It hit a public nerve.

As I recall the Royals were not very popular the time and later in 1991, as a result of a backlash, and the Queen urged Prince Charles to start discussions with the Treasury. The Queen herself was already consulting her advisers and the Treasury about her tax status.

In Autumn 1992 with the financial discussions still going on behind closed doors, the public were also concerned that the Queen wanted public funds to repair Windsor Castle which suffered a devastating fire in Autumn 1992. The Daily Mail, unaware of the behind-the-scenes negotiations, gently proposed a public gesture. “We sympathise with The Queen. Of course, we do. But these are hard times for most people. Many of them have a truly horrid year. They have lost their livelihoods….Even been driven from their homes. The Queen should pay some tax on her income. And fewer member of her family should be a charge on the Civil List. She should offer to contribute to restoring the fabric of Windsor Castle.’ At the time, a poll carried out by Numbers Market Research for The Independent on Sunday found that nearly eight out of 10 people believed the Queen should pay tax.

Six days after the Windsor Castle fire, the then PM John Major made a surprise announcement in the House of Commons that the Queen and the Prince of Wales had volunteered to pay tax on their private incomes and that the Queen would reimburse the Civil List annuities of five lesser members of the Royal Family. John Major informed Parliament that the National Audit Office would be looking into expenditure on the royal palaces.

1992 was dubbed the Queen’s ‘annus horribilis’ We estimated the Queen’s income tax liability to be £7.2m per annum. Ever since the Queen and Prince Charles has paid income tax on the private income and there are less members of the Royal Family on the Civil List.

The question of the Royal Family’s wealth and the delicate relationship between the Civil List – payments to the Royal Family, what they are personally worth and how much personal wealth they derive from the land they hold and what exactly do they hold on behalf of the Nation, are still percolating. I expect to see new revelations before long.

PL story – follow up to last week’s Indonesia exclusive –

Survivors of 1965 Indonesia massacres urge UK to apologise

After Observer report, families say the move would help heal country’s wound

PL: We’ve got a big two-parter in The Observer on UK involvement in the Indonesia mass murder of the 1960s.

Revealed: how UK spies incited mass murder of Indonesia’s communists

Slaughter in Indonesia: Britain’s secret propaganda war

Nice review of my spy book by Professor Richard Keeble

“Given the importance of the intelligence services in shaping the news agenda it is a matter of serious concern that the links between hacks and spooks have been so little studied in the academy. Paul Lashmar’s latest text helps fill the
gap in masterly fashion.

He is the ideal person to write this study. An award-winning investigative reporter and now head of the prestigious Journalism programme at City, University of London, Lashmar has covered many of the recent controversies outlined
here. Since the early 1980s, his career has included spells at the Observer, Granada Television’s Work in Action, the Independent and the Independent on Sunday. The bibliography at the end includes 24 texts he has sole-authored
plus another 21 he jointly authored between 1983 and 2018 – this alone giving an idea of the depth and breadth of his journalism in this area.

But Lashmar’s investigative background means that he is able to enliven the text throughout with some engaging personal anecdotes and insights into changing journalist routine.”

“This is, in fact, a massively detailed, original and thought-provoking study that should be required reading for all students and teachers of journalism, media, communication, intelligence studies and politics”

The full detailed review is in Vol 18. No1/2 2021 OSSN 1742-0105 and can be found at:

‘Investigative Journalism’ 3rd edition published this week, co-edited by Hugo de Burgh and Paul Lashmar

This third edition maps the new world of investigative journalism, where technology and globalisation have connected and energised journalists, whistle-blowers and the latest players, with far-reaching consequences for politics and business worldwide. 
In this new edition, expert contributors demonstrate how crowdsourcing, big data, globalisation of information, and changes in media ownership and funding have escalated the impact of investigative journalists. The book includes case studies of investigative journalism from around the world, including the exposure of EU corruption, the destruction of the Malaysian environment, and investigations in China, Poland and Turkey. From Ibero-America to Nigeria, India to the Arab world, investigative journalists intensify their countries’ evolution by inquisition and revelation.
This new edition reveals how investigative journalism has gone digital and global. Investigative Journalism is essential for all those intending to master global politics, international relations, media and justice in the 21st century.