Rachel Ferguson


  • r.ferguson.2@research.gla.ac.uk
  • (0141) 330 7467
PhD Topic

The Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry and the criminalisation of adult-child relations from the 20th century


Professor Lindsay Farmer
Dr Sarah Armstrong


Rachel Ferguson is a Doctoral Researcher with the Economic and Social Research Council based at the University of Glasgow and affiliated with the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research (SCCJR). Her research interests lie principally in criminal law, social theory, legal theory and history. Rachel’s doctoral project investigates the criminalisation of adult-child relations from the 20th century to present day in the jurisdictions of Scotland and England and Wales.  In undertaking her study, she is developing a theoretically informed critical assessment of the function of contemporary inquiries into historic child abuse. Rachel graduated from the University of Glasgow with an LL.B (Hons) (First) in 2016,  an MRes in Law in 2017 and an MRes in Criminology in 2018, respectively.

Research Interests

I am investigating the relationship between public inquiries into child abuse and the law, with a particular emphasis upon the criminal law. The ongoing Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry, mandated in 2015, forms the focal point of my work. My current research questions are:

  •  What are the objectives of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry?
  • What form and processes are relied upon by the Inquiry?
  • Why are these selected?
  • What is the relationship between the form and processes of the Inquiry and the functions it performs (stated or otherwise)?
  • What is the contemporary role of the law in forming an account of child abuse in the past? 

The Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry seeks to create a public record of abuse experienced by children under the age of 18 in a range of care institutions within living memory of its applicants. Its findings will form a standard against which contemporary legal regulation is evaluated and policy recommendations made, and possibly implemented.

There is limited critical legal or theoretical engagement with public inquiries into child abuse. Despite this, many features of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry are of importance to the study of law generally and criminal law, in particular. These include the reliance on a specific definition of ‘child’ and ‘abuse’ that have been subject to significant legal change, notably criminal legal change, since the 19th century; the role of the criminal justice institutions as core participants to the Inquiry as well as objects of scrutiny by the Inquiry; the relationship between administrative, civil and criminal legal regulation at the Inquiry and the potential for the Inquiry to form the basis of further criminal prosecutions.


Graduate Teaching Assistant for:

  • Jurisprudence (LL.B, level 2)
  • Criminal Law and Evidence  (LL.B, level 1)


  • ESRC Doctoral Scholarship (1+3) (2017-2021)
  • Postgraduate Talent Scholarship from The University of Glasgow (2016-17)
  • Janet Sheed Roberts Legal Scholarship (2012-16)
  • Theodore David Lowe Prize in law of the European Union (2016)


  • “Rational Reconstruction.” Invited speaker at workshop on Antony Duff’s, ‘The Realm of Criminal Law’. University of Edinburgh, 2018.
  • “Notes on public inquiries into child abuse and the construction and function of knowledge of the past.” Paper delivered to Memory Studies Conference organised by the South, West and Wales (Arts and Humanities) Doctoral Training Partnership. University of Bristol, 2018.
  • “Historicising the law of grooming in Scotland and England and Wales.” Paper delivered to Historical Perspectives Seminar Series. University of Glasgow, 2017.

Additional Information

Alongside my research, I am involved in the Glasgow Legal Theory Reading Group and a reading group at the Barlinnie Prison run by the SCCJR.  Prior to my postgraduate studies, I worked as legal support for the in-house legal team of a spirits firm. 

I am trained in R statistical programming, research design and qualitative methods. 

My social media contact details are as follows:

Twitter: @RMFerguson_

Linkedin: www.linkedin.com/in/rachel-major-ferguson