Declaring Crimes

Seminar/Forum

Declaring Crimes

For centuries, Scots criminal law has been renowned for its flexibility and adaptability. One striking example of this characteristic is the so-called declaratory power: the power of Scotland’s highest criminal court to declare conduct punishable in the absence of statutory authority or direct precedent. This article considers the origins and early use of the declaratory power in light of some of the questions that occupied key thinkers in Enlightenment Scotland to show how, in contrast to its contemporary opprobrium, the power might once have appeared unobjectionable. It then considers some more recent examples of judicial lawmaking in Scots criminal law and suggests that this nuanced historical understanding casts them in a potentially more favourable light. Beyond their relevance to Scots law, these observations resonate with more general debates about the requirements of legality, legal authority, the limits of judicial discretion and the relationship between laws and the community.

Presenter

  • Dr Chlöe Kennedy
    Dr Chlöe Kennedy, University of Edinburgh