Sexual assaults by boys against young girls in Victorian Scotland, 1851-1885

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Historical research into the rape of girls 'below the age of puberty' is often characterised through an analysis based upon adult samples of offenders. In this paper boys aged 12-18 who were convicted of serious sexual assault in the High Court of Justiciary in Scotland are the cases analysed. These cases were identified through the National Records of Scotland criminal archive in Edinburgh. There violent assaults are described and analysed on the basis of the precognition evidence taken by the Crown on behalf of the state prosecution. Based upon the testimonies gathered through precognition the paper explores the ways in which young male offenders regard very young female children and the reaction of the community including criminal justice. It is argued that the chronological age proximity of each group, perpetrators and victims, affects the nature of the crimes, but not the sentencing which mirrors that handed down to adult men aged 21-70. Contrary to some historical studies of criminal justice in Victorian England these boy criminals were not given qualitatively different tariffs of punishment. By a close analysis of the perceptions of the families and victims in the precognitions the paper illuminates moral values and gendered reactions.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2018
EventBritish Crime Historians Symposium 2018 - Edge Hill University, Ormskirk, United Kingdom
Duration: 31 Aug 20181 Sept 2018


ConferenceBritish Crime Historians Symposium 2018
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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