A Man Seeking Closure: Alexander Paterson, Du Parcq and Inter-war Penal Policy

  • Alyson Brown


The Dartmoor Convict Prison riot of 24 January 1932 was a serious blow to the prison authorities and indeed to the Liberal Government of the time. In response to the serious disturbance in Dartmoor Prison, which at a time of economic and political unrest seemed to reflect broader problems, the Government established an investigative inquiry. This chapter will consider the extent to which the inquiry, headed by Herbert Du Parcq, and its consequent report were intended as a form of crisis management and designed primarily for public consumption to allay fears and support the existing prison administration. The report produced by the Du Parcq investigation had a major impact on public opinion about the riot and its causes although the inquiry itself was conducted in private. The conduct of the inquiry attracted a great deal of public interest but the extent to which it could be termed independent was compromised by Prison Commissioner, Alexander Paterson, being one of the two primary investigators. In contrast, the work of the CID in gathering evidence to enable prosecution of rioters, which began immediately after Du Parcq’s work, received very little public interest. As has been noted about official inquiries generally, a process of production was undertaken, but it is one of the aims of this chapter to scrutinise not only what was produced but also how and why? The complexity and interpretive nature of this production process has been described as follows:


Prison System Preventive Detention Prison Staff Penal Policy Escape Attempt 
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Copyright information

© Alyson Brown 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alyson Brown
    • 1
  1. 1.Edge Hill UniversityUK

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