Holyrood asked to pardon the 4,000 executed for witchcraft

Holyrood asked to pardon the 4,000 executed for witchcraft

Claire Mitchell QC

Holyrood has formally been asked to “right a terrible miscarriage of justice” suffered by the 4,000 people accused and executed for witchcraft.

A petition lodged by Claire Mitchell QC seeks a pardon as well as an official apology and a memorial in recognition of Scotland’s witches, the vast majority of whom were women.

Ms Mitchell said in the Witches of Scotland podcast she co-hosts with author Zoe Venditozzi that “a pardon, apology and memorial are necessary as a reckoning for all those who suffered this terrible miscarriage of justice”.

She said: “Not only is history not properly recording what positive things women do, but their history is also erased by not properly recording their story.

“I have a particular interest in Scottish legal history and the people who were caught up in accusations of witchcraft so I decided to start a campaign to restore these people, mostly women, to their correct place in history as women and men, not witches.

“Between 1563 and 1736, when the Witchcraft Act was law, there were four relatively defined periods of ‘satanic panic’ which resulted in approximately just shy of 4000 people being accused as witches. As with elsewhere in Europe, the vast majority of those accused, some 85 per cent were women.”

She added: “Confession to allegations of witchcraft were routinely obtained by torture, both physical and mental. The stripping and pricking of women was common, as was sleep deprivation. Of all of those 4,000, academics estimate that approximately 2,500 were executed.

“The method of execution was by way of strangulation and then burning at the stake. Scotland had approximately five times the number of cases than elsewhere in Europe during this time.

“Alas, at finding and killing witches, we excelled.”

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