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Monday, July 13, 2015

Caught in the Act: convictions & imprisonment in the 1930s

An official government document on obscene publications reveals that there were a dozen cases between 1936 and 1957 where a conviction of imprisonment in excess of 18 months was awarded. Most of these were, as far as I'm aware, for obscene magazines and photographs, rather than books, but I'm planning to check out all twelve to see what information I can gather.

None made any great impact with the broadsheets, and only a couple caused more than a ripple in local papers, as far as I can find so far. This first, dating from 1936, generated only a single mention in one newspaper (The Citizen in Gloucester, 10 March 1936, which recorded a case heard on 7 March 1936 at Birmingham Quarter Sessions.

Sentence of nine months' hard labour was passed at Birmingham Sessions on Conrad Kernick (35), of Redland, Bristol, when he pleaded guilty to conspiracy in selling and publishing indecent photographs and books.
    Kernick was charged jointly with a man named Howard Moore (41), of Sand Pits, Birmingham, who was sentenced to two years' hard labour.
    Detective-Supt. Baguley, head of the Birmingham C.I.D., told the Recorder: "There can be no doubt that the arrest of these two men has brought to light one of the most extensive organisations for the manufacturing and circulating of grossly obscene photographs and books in this country; the master mind of the conspiracy being Moore."
    The superintendent added that upwards of 210 persons whose names and addresses were found in the books of Moore and Kernick had been interviewed by the police. They were resident in all parts of England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland, and they included every walk of life—ministers of religion, schoolmasters, solicitors, librarians and civil servants.
    "From many of these people," he said, "grossly obscene photographs and books have been recovered, all of which they obtained upon application to Moore, and they could have formed the subjects of many further charges."
I've found no further information on Moore, but Richard Conrad Kernick continued to live in the Bristol area and died in 1985. I haven't been able to find anything about the nature of the photographs and it's worth mentioning that something considered "grossly obscene" back in the mid-1930s may not be considered terribly "hard" today.

The same caveat applied to this second report from the 1930s which is brief and frustratingly lacking in detail.
Pleading guilty at the Central Criminal Court yesterday to a charge of selling obscene literature, Edwin Henry Turvey (36), a salesman, was sentenced to two years' imprisonment.
Notes from elsewhere reveal that Turvey was a wholesale bookseller and was sentenced "for publishing and selling an obscene book and photos". Turvey would later have a central role in the boom of paperbacks in the late 1940s.

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