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What Was Charles Bronson In Prison For?

Charles Bronson is one of the most notorious and infamous prisoners in British criminal history. Despite being renowned as an extremely violent and dangerous convict, few people actually know the full details of his original crimes that first sent him to prison decades ago.

Bronson has spent over 44 years behind bars, with 36 of those in solitary confinement. Now aging and in ill health, he continues to be incarcerated indefinitely due to his unpredictably violent behavior and prison escapes.

Bronson’s Early Life and Crimes

Before becoming Britain’s most notorious prisoner, Charles Bronson was born Michael Gordon Peterson in 1952. His early life showed no indication of the violent path he would take.

Bronson was one of three sons born to Eira and Joe Peterson in Aberystwyth, Wales. His childhood was fairly normal and the family later moved to England. As a youth, Bronson worked a series of construction jobs.

His first brushes with the law came in his late teens for a series of petty crimes. These included robbery, assault and possession of firearms. However, it was a bungled armed robbery in 1974 that resulted in his first significant prison sentence.

The 1974 Armed Robbery

In 1974, a 22-year-old Bronson attempted to rob a post office in Little Sutton, England along with two accomplices. During the botched robbery:

  • Bronson assaulted the postmaster and stole £26.18 in cash from the postal orders.
  • His two accomplices were unable to control the scene and fled.
  • Bronson attempted to flee but was apprehended. A search found he was armed with a sawed-off shotgun.
  • No shots were fired during the robbery and no serious physical injuries resulted.
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Bronson was subsequently convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison for the armed postal robbery. This would begin his decades behind bars.

Armed robbery7 years
Possession of sawed-off shotgunConcurrent with robbery
GBH against the postmasterConcurrent with robbery

The seven year sentence was Bronson’s first major incarceration and the beginning of his notoriety within the British prison system.

Parole and Recidivism

Bronson was initially imprisoned at HMP Walton before being transferred to a number of other facilities during the 1970s. He was released on parole in October 1978 after serving four years of his seven year term.

However, Bronson’s first taste of freedom was short lived. Within just 69 days of his parole, he was arrested again. This was for his role in planning another robbery.

For this attempted robbery and parole violation, Bronson was convicted and sentenced to another seven years in prison. This failure reinforced Bronson’s place as a career criminal and recidivist unable to reform.

Descent into Violence and Notoriety

It was after this second seven year sentence that Bronson descended into unpredictable violence and self-harm attempts that would make him infamous.

Now formally incarcerated again, Bronson engaged in frequent outbursts against guards and prisoners. He regularly destroyed prison property and equipment during uncontrollable fits of rage.

Bronson took a guard hostage at HMP Hull in 1978. Additional robbery, assault and hostage taking convictions added more years to his original terms.

Authorities attempted to diagnose explanations for Bronson’s violence and personality disorders to better control him. But no clear causes emerged beyond antisocial tendencies and desire for notoriety.

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Through repeated violent incidents, hostage situations and rooftop protests over decades, Bronson earned an unmatched reputation for chaos amongst staff and inmates.

Bronson’s Sentences and Current Status

Due to his extraordinary history of violent behavior and recidivism, Charles Bronson remains incarcerated indefinitely. Some key details on his incarceration status:

  • Overall sentenced to over 15 additional years beyond original terms due to violent behavior and parole violations.
  • Currently held in specialist solitary confinement unit.
  • Will only be eligible for parole consideration at age 78 for robbery charges.
  • However, no minimum release date exists due to indefinite sentence.
  • Declared one of Britain’s most dangerous prisoners.
  • Has cost tax-payers an estimated £10 million during 40+ years behind bars.
  • Has changed name from Michael Peterson to Charles Bronson.
  • Remains a high profile prisoner who generates media interest.

Bronson is now 70 years old and in deteriorating health. Yet authorities still consider him too much of a threat to ever release back into society.


While Bronson’s original convictions were for armed robbery and assault, his extraordinary violence over decades behind bars have made him legendary.

No other UK prisoner has inflicted as much chaos and physical harm against guards and inmates. Bronson’s severe personality disorder produces an inherent need for control and reputation that long sentences have failed to suppress.

Yet despite decades of attempts to study and rehabilitate him, Bronson at age 70 remains as volatile and dangerous as when he entered prison over 44 years ago.

For the sake of public safety, authorities have little choice but to retain Bronson in specialized captivity indefinitely. Any freedoms could quickly lead to violence and further crimes by Britain’s most notorious lifelong convict.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where did Charles Bronson grow up as a child?

Charles Bronson was born Michael Peterson in 1952 in Aberystwyth, Wales. His family later moved to England where he spent most of his childhood.

What was the first crime that resulted in major imprisonment?

Bronson’s first significant sentence was 7 years for a 1974 armed robbery of a post office in Little Sutton, England. He assaulted the postmaster and stole £26.

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How much time did Bronson serve before his first parole?

Bronson served 4 years of the 7 year armed robbery sentence before being paroled in October 1978. However, he only remained free for 69 days before being arrested again.

Did Bronson adjust well to life outside prison after parole?

No. Bronson struggled to adapt to freedom. Within 69 days of release he was organizing another robbery attempt and had his parole revoked.

How many times has Bronson taken hostages in prison?

Bronson has taken at least a dozen hostages during violent prison incidents over the decades. Most were prison staff members but some were fellow inmates.

Why does Bronson change his name from Michael Peterson to Charles Bronson?

He first changed his name in the 1980’s, reportedly in admiration of the American actor Charles Bronson who starred in violent vigilante films.

What are some of the most violent incidents Bronson has instigated in prison?

  • Taking prison staff and inmates hostage on multiple occasions.
  • Attacking fellow prisoners resulting in severe injuries.
  • Causing damage to prison facilities during uncontrolled outbursts.
  • Throwing broken glass, human waste and other objects at guards.
  • Instigating prison rooftop protests that endangered himself and others.

Is Bronson still considered a high risk to the public if released?

Yes. Despite his age and poor health, authorities still believe Bronson retains his capacity for extreme violence. He is considered a severe public threat and at high risk of reoffending if ever released.

How much has Bronson cost UK taxpayers over his 40+ year incarceration?

It is estimated Bronson’s repeated violent incidents, damages, and special handling over decades behind bars have cost British taxpayers around £10 million.

Does Bronson display any remorse for his crimes and behavior?

Bronson has rarely expressed remorse and still believes he is justified in using violence to retaliate against perceived injustices by prison staff and the system. His capacity for remorse remains very limited.

Prison Inside Team

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Welcome to ‘Prison Inside,’ a blog dedicated to shedding light on the often hidden and misunderstood world within correctional facilities. Through firsthand accounts, personal narratives, and insightful reflections, we delve into the lives of those who find themselves behind bars, offering a unique perspective on the challenges, triumphs, and transformations that unfold within the confines of these walls.

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