Oblique intent

Why the name? Well criminal law afficionados will recognise the phrase 'oblique intent' as referring to a problem of mens rea:can a person who intends to do x (such as setting fire to a building to scare the occupants) also be said to have an intention to kill if one of the occupants dies? This is a problem that has consumed an inordinate amount of time in the appeal courts and in the legal journals, and can be taken to represent a certain kind of approach to legal theory. My approach is intended to be more oblique to this mainstream approach, and thus to raise different kinds of questions and issues. Hence the name.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

On Mary Reid or Timney

I wrote a short post on this case earlier in the year: Mary Timney was the last woman to be publicly executed in Scotland, in Dumfries in 1862. I have now had the benefit of reading the book on the case by Jayne Baldwin that I mentioned in that post.

The story is beautifully told and presents a great deal of new information drawn from newspapers and the court and other official records. There are a number of images of letters, of some of the participants and maps and so on. Only a small part of the book is given over the murder and the trial, which is perhaps unsurprising as the case was fairly clear. The bulk of the book is the story of the efforts to get the sentence commuted and the preparations for the execution itself, and this is grippingly told even if we know the outcome in advance. There is also fascinating discussion of the involvement of local MP William Ewart in the campaign on Mary's behalf and against public executions - which came to fruition in 1868.

This is valuable contribution to our understanding of crime and capital punishment in mid-nineteenth century Scotland. I hesitate to say that it would make an excellent Christmas present - it would, but perhaps only for those with an appetite for the grim for the story it tells is not happy one.

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