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George Smith’s Background
There are many who advocate severe punishment for offenders who are caught committing crime when young, the ‘short, sharp shock’, treatment. Perhaps they are right. In George Smith’s case, early capture, at only nine years of age, led to incarceration in a reformatory until he was 16. Very harsh indeed on a boy so young and, let be said, so under-privileged in days of so-called Victorian values. It seems punishment for the lower classes was one thing, for the privileged another; it would be inconceivable that a child of a well-off family would have been locked up for seven years.
Far from serving as a deterrent, being locked up did not deter George Smith from going on to commit crime all his adult life. He was in and out of prison, at one point being sentenced to 6 months hard labour for stealing a bicycle. He must have learned a lot from other inmates, not least in the use of false identities and committing fraud. Could it be that imprisonment for so long and so often was the cause of his felonious lifestyle, rather than a cure? And should the state should bear some responsibility for the ultimate crimes committed by a man who murdered women in their baths for gain? Whatever the cause, George Joseph Smith will forever be known as the monster in the ‘brides in the bath’ case.