Infanticide in Scotland

Med Sci Law. 1996 Oct;36(4):299-305. doi: 10.1177/002580249603600405.


Details from Scottish Office records of all infants under a year who were the victims of homicide in Scotland during 1978-1993 are presented and compared with results from studies of infant homicide in England and Wales. Although Scottish homicide rates in the total population are much higher than those in England and Wales, the annual Scottish infanticide rate (43/million) is remarkably similar to that of England and Wales (45/million). In addition, characteristics of victims and perpetrators are also similar between the two regions. As with England and Wales, in Scotland the younger the infant the greater the risk of becoming the victim of homicide (83% were killed within 6 months of birth); male babies were more frequently killed than female ones; a parent was the most frequent perpetrator (93% of offences); mothers tended to kill neonates but for infants older than a day more fathers than mothers were recorded as the main accused. Mothers and fathers were convicted of similar offences but fathers were less likely to receive non-custodial sentences. Differences in sentencing appeared to be related to either gender-related differences in attributions as to the motivation for the offence, or to the level of violence used against the victim. Offences of mothers were most frequently recorded as being motivated by mental illness, those by fathers as due to rage. Fathers were more likely to have killed by kicking or hitting, mothers by some form of suffocation.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Criminal Law
  • England
  • Female
  • Homicide / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Homicide / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infanticide / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Infanticide / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Risk Factors
  • Scotland
  • Sex Factors
  • Wales