Managing Criminal Women in Scotland: An Assessment of the Scarcity of Female Offenders in the Records of the High Court of Justiciary, 1524-1542
Hartlen, Chelsea D. M.
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The records of Scotland’s High Court of Justiciary that run from 1524 to 1542 contain a remarkably low number of women charged with felonies and pleas of the crown, and reveal the justiciar’s reluctance to convict or execute female offenders. Criminal procedure and jurisdiction afforded victims and kin opportunities to deal with deviant women before they attracted the attention of the king and his justiciar. Moreover, in the Borders, remote central governance, minority rulers and feuding encouraged a quasi-legal system of private justice that operated within the organising principal of kindred to maintain order. In Scotland, this manifested in a sorting process that kept women out of the justice court and under the management of local officials and kindred. This thesis examines these documents in order to understand better the experiences of women before the law and the efficacy of centralised governance and private justice in sixteenth-century Scotland.