'Fair is Foul and Foul is Fair': The Legality of the Scottish Witch Trials of the 1590s

34 Pages Posted: 18 Mar 2020

See all articles by Isobel Pepper

Isobel Pepper

Victoria University of Wellington, Faculty of Law, Student/Alumni

Date Written: September 2, 2019

Abstract

This paper looks at the delegation of power between central and local authorities during the Scottish witch trials and examines whether this resulted in legitimate trials in accordance with the standards of the time (1590s). The central authorities delegated power under commissions of justiciary for local authorities to prosecute witchcraft cases in local ad hoc trials, without ensuring that these trials would allow a fair hearing and sentence. Local authorities were able to manipulate the system, by using torture in local pre-trial proceedings to secure commissions. Ultimately this paper finds that the dominance of local trials and the negligence of the central authorities led to trials that did not follow due process, and illegitimate and unjust results.

Keywords: Scotland, Witchcraft Trials, 16th Century

JEL Classification: K00

Suggested Citation

Pepper, Isobel, 'Fair is Foul and Foul is Fair': The Legality of the Scottish Witch Trials of the 1590s (September 2, 2019). Victoria University of Wellington Legal Research Paper No. 5/2020, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3556194 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3556194

Isobel Pepper (Contact Author)

Victoria University of Wellington, Faculty of Law, Student/Alumni

PO Box 600
Wellington, Victoria 6140
New Zealand

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