News Archive

March 2014 – Susan McVie’s Inaugural Lecture focuses on Edinburgh Study

On 18th March, Susan McVie delivered her inaugural lecture titled ‘Painting with Numbers: The Changing Landscape of Crime in Scotland’.

In the lecture, McVie focused on the change in crimes and offences over the last 20 years, comparing both recorded crime statistics with data from the Scottish Crime Surveys. After highlighting the apparent fall in youth crime, she examined findings from the Edinburgh Study on the relationship between offending and conviction and highlighted the fact that early engagement in serious offending did not necessarily mean a life of crime.

You can see Professor McVie’s lecture here: YouTube

June 2013 – Edinburgh Study featured in ‘Making the Case for Social Sciences in the UK’ series

Susan McVie and Lesley McAra, Co-Directors of the Edinburgh Study, submitted a summary of the impact from the Study at the request of the Academy of Social Sciences. The focus of the particular ‘Making the Case for the Social Sciences in the UK’ booklet that they contributed to is longitudinal research and its purpose is to demonstrate to a wide audience how valuable these types of study are and how the research from longitudinal studies can make a difference to society.

You can read the booklet here: Making the Case for the Social Sciences, No. 8 Longitudinal Studies

June 2012 – Cabinet Secretary for Justice highlights the importance of the Edinburgh Study as evidence underpinning the new Whole System Approach to youth justice

In his opening address to the Fourth National Youth Justice Conference in Dundee on 13th June, Cabinet Secretary for Justice Kenny MacAskill highlighted the importance of the Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime as one of the most important pieces of evidence underpinning the new Whole System Approach to youth justice. Mr MacAskill emphasised the need for strong evidence to support policy making, and paid particular tribute to the Co-Directors of the Study in bring this evidence to wide public attention. The Conference also featured a presentation by Lesley McAra and Susan McVie titled “Getting Youth Justice ‘Right’?” in which they praised the positive changes that have occurred under the SNP leadership in Scotland, and highlighted four key challenges for the future of youth justice. John Drew, new Head of the Youth Justice Board in England and Wales, also stated that the Edinburgh Study was the single most important study of youth crime and justice in the UK today. To review the twitter feed from the conference see #YJScotland.

May 2012 – Hate Crime Group hears evidence from Edinburgh Study

On 10th May, Susan McVie presented a paper to the Edinburgh Community Safety partnership Hate Crime Strategic Development Group. The paper, titled “Race-based violence and harassment in Scotland: Analysis of two large youth surveys”, explored some of the key findings from the Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime and another study funded by the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency on Racism and Social Marginalisation. The findings highlighted the problems or racial harassment experienced by many non-white young people in the city and identified the profile of those most affected by the problem. It is hoped that some of these findings will be used to inform new directions for policy and practice by the Group in the City of Edinburgh.

November 2011 – Findings on violence presented to Government

In the first of a series of research seminars for Scottish Government, Liz Levy and Susan McVie presented papers to policy makers and analysts based on findings from the Edinburgh Study about violence. Liz was presenting findings from her analysis of the study data, conducted while on secondment from Government, on young people’s involvement in serious violence. Susan talked about the findings published in September 2010 about young people’s involvement in gangs and knife crime. The aim of the seminar series is to make policy makers and analysts within Scottish Government more aware about the findings from the Edinburgh Study and about it’s potential as a valuable source of information about transitions in young people’s lives over time.

October 2011 – Keynote address to ‘Include Youth’

At a major conference in Belfast this month, Study Co-Director, Professor Lesley McAra, gave a keynote address titled Getting the ‘right’ Youth Justice based on the findings from the Edinburgh Study. The paper explored the implications for policy and practice of the recent review of youth justice in Northern Ireland, commissioned by Ministers and led by Kathleen Marshall, John Graham and Stella Perot. The Edinburgh Study was part of the evidence base drawn on for this review (both by the review team itself and by groups such as Include Youth in their submissions to the review). Professor McAra argued that although the review report had made some of the ‘right’ moral choices it was politically timid. The key challenge for juvenile justice policymakers and practitioners was to develop a system which offered services proportionate to the child’s needs but which also maximised diversion from criminal justice. In order to rise to this challenge the best interests of the child are required to be placed at the heart of decision-making. For more information, and to see the conference twitter feed, go to Include Youth.

September 2011 – Whole Systems Approach to youth justice launched

On Wednesday 28th September, Kenny MacAskill, Cabinet Secretary for Justice, launched the new Whole Systems Approach to youth justice in Scotland. The launch, which took place in Dumfries and Galloway, stressed the importance of local authorities taking a partnership approach to tackling youth crime and ensuring that streamlined and consistent planning, assessment and decision making processes be put in place for young people who offend, ensuring they receive the right help at the right time. The ethos of the Whole Systems Approach is based on findings from the Edinburgh Study that stress that many young people could and should be diverted from statutory measures, prosecution and custody through early intervention and robust community alternatives. The Scottish Government website provides further information about the Whole Systems Approach, including a range of guidance documents and toolkits aimed at practitioners.

September 2011 – Sad news about Edinburgh Study interviewer

It is with great sadness that we report the death of Edinburgh Study interviewer Bob Bonnar. Bob was a stalwart of the research team for a number of years and interviewed a great many of the Edinburgh Study cohort members. We remember him as a great colleague, a determined interviewer and a dedicated member of the research team. Bob passed away on 27th September at St Columba’s Hospice.

June 2011 – Study findings used to inform local Campaign

The Edinburgh Evening News highlighted findings from the Edinburgh Study on knife carrying in an article published on 1st June. The article was drawing attention to a report on gangs and knife crime which was commissioned by the Scottish Government in 2009. Findings from the report were used to inform the No Lives Better Knives Campaign, which was launched in Edinburgh in the summer of 2010. The Campaign aims to provide 11 to 17 year olds with a range of diversionary activities and sports, and findings from the Edinburgh Study indicate that these sorts of activities can be beneficial in terms of keeping young people away from crime and antisocial behaviour.

April 2011 – Youth Justice Review Team in Northern Ireland is advised to draw upon Edinburgh Study findings

A recent submission to the Youth Justice Review Team in Northern Ireland from the Non-Governmental Organisation ‘Include Youth’ contained important findings from the Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime. This review was announced in November 2010 by Northern Ireland’s Minister for Justice David Forde and aimed to provide a ‘review of how children and young people are treated at all stages of the criminal justice system, including detention, to ensure compliance with international obligations and best practice.’ Amongst the key recommendations to the Review Team, which draw upon the Edinburgh Study’s findings, were that youth justice should promote generic early intervention at point of need, provide universal services to all children and families and ensure service provision is diversionary.

March 2011 – Barrow Cadbury Trust hears evidence from Edinburgh Study on desistance and growing out of crime

On Tuesday 1st March, Susan McVie delivered a paper to the Barrow Cadbury Trust Conference in London. The Conference, also attended by Mr Tim Loughton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families, was titled “Making the Case: The need for a distinct approach for young adults in the criminal justice system”. Many policy makers, practitioners and representatives from voluntary organisations and charities working with children and young adults attended the event which highlighted the important role of research on the transition from childhood to adulthood. Susan’s paper titled “Young adults, growing out of crime and desistance” focused on key findings from the Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime, and highlighted the dangers of potential problems caused by multiple and repeated intervention which inhibit some people from desisting from offending.

February 2011 – Senior social workers use Edinburgh Study findings for strategic planning in North Edinburgh area

Co-Directors of the Edinburgh Study, Lesley McAra and Susan McVie, gave a presentation to the Children and Families Planning Group in the North of Edinburgh on 3rd February. The focus of the meeting was on the key findings from the study around the impact of interventions on young people. The Planning Group will be using some of these findings to inform its strategic planning on the development of services, and aims to ensure that social workers can work more effectively and meaningfully with children, young people and families.

January 2011 – Edinburgh Study fieldwork draws to a close

The fieldwork for the latest phase of the Edinburgh Study research is now drawing to a close. Anyone who has received a letter from the study team and still wishes to participate in the research, please contact the team as soon as possible by text (07491 180 877) or by email (

December 2010 – Edinburgh Study findings support changes to Enhanced Disclosure system in Scotland

The Scottish Child Law Centre facilitated a discussion on the impact of enhanced disclosures on young people’s future life chances on the 14th of December at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. The event, hosted by Robin Harper MSP, was attended by practitioners, policy makers and academics from across Scotland. Professor Lesley McAra began the discussion by presenting powerful findings from the Edinburgh Study on the dangers of using ‘soft’ information held by the police on suspects and disclosing offences committed while under the age of 16 and admitted at children’s hearings. She concluded that more consideration needed to be taken of the nature, context and pattern of individual offending to understand levels of future risk. She also pointed out that disclosure of one-off or episodic violent offences or underage sexual activity ran the risk of stigmatising and labelling young people, seriously damaging their later life chances. Other speakers contributing to the debate included Lothian and Borders Police Chief Constable David Strang, Sheriff Brian Kearney, Malcolm Schaffer from the Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration and Morag Driscoll of the Scottish Child Law Centre.

October 2010 – Three months of Edinburgh Study fieldwork remaining

The current phase of interviewing is drawing to a close. At the end of December, we will have completed our most recent phase of data collection and will be moving on to another phase of the study’s development. Therefore, those who have been contacted by us but have not yet participated, please contact the Study team at the earliest possible time to ensure you are included in this sweep of the study. (Click here for contact details)

September 2010 – Ireland looks to the Edinburgh Study to support campaign for Social Justice

The Irish Penal Reform Trust, Barnardos and the Irish Association of Young People in care, have utilised findings from the Edinburgh Study (see the article titled “Youth Crime and Justice: Key Messages from the Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime“) as part of their campaign to shift resources from criminal justice to social justice, thereby creating better communities and a safer society for all. Speaking at the launch of the campaign at a major conference in Dublin on 23rd September, Professor Lesley McAra presented findings from the Study to leading academics, policy makers, politicians and practitioners. The official campaign report makes reference to the research as follows: “As research now shows, rather than targeting those ‘at risk’, universal supports that underpin social justice are more likely to have positive effect”.

September 2010 – Edinburgh Study findings used to support Barnardo’s campaign to increase age of criminal responsibility in England and Wales

On 12th September, the Children’s Charity Barnardo’s launched a campaign to get the UK Government to review the age of criminal responsibility in England and Wales. At the moment, children as young as 10 can be prosecuted and convicted if they commit serious offences; however, there is increasing evidence to suggest that exposing young children to the criminal justice system can be counterproductive and damaging in the longer term. Reporting findings from the Edinburgh Study, the official Barnardos report entitled “From Playground to Prison” points out that “the deeper that children penetrate the youth justice system, the more ‘damaged’ they are likely to become and the less likely they are to stop offending and grow out of crime”. The coalition government has stated that raising the age of criminal responsibility to 12 will be considered as part of a Government Sentencing Review. The age of criminal responsibility in Scotland remains at 8.

September 2010 – Report on gangs and knife crime published

A new report on gangs and knife crime was published by Scottish Government on Friday 10th September. The report contains detailed analysis of patterns of weapon carrying and gang membership from age 12 to 17 amongst the Edinburgh Study cohort, and highlights the similarities and differences between groups of young people who engage in these types of behaviour. The report was commissioned to complement another study of gangs and knife crime carried out by members of the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research. The Edinburgh Study findings have been published as both a full report and a short research findings paper.

September 2010 – Co-Directors highlight the study at the European Society of Criminology Conference

At the 10th European Society of Criminology Conference in Liege, Belgium co-Directors Lesley McAra and Susan McVie highlighted some key theoretical ideas that have emerged from the Edinburgh Study. Their paper, entitled “Negotiated Order: Deviance, Identity and Desistance”, explored the role which formal and informal regulation plays in the development of particular ‘offender identities’. It argues that formal orders (such as policing) differentiate between young people on the basis of class and suspiciousness and that these operate to exclude many young people, which in turn undermines their ability to negotiate the system and results in individuals adopting identities which are defined in terms of their offending behaviour rather than other, more positive, aspects of their lives.

August 2010 – Another Professor for the Edinburgh Study team

On 1st of August, Susan McVie – one of the Study Co-Directors – was appointed Professor of Quantitative Criminology in the School of Law at the University of Edinburgh. Susan has been with the Study since it started in 1998, and was one of the main researchers involved in the study team. She has played a key role in developing the methods used in the study and analysing the data that has been collected. She specialises in complex data analysis, and has produced a large number of articles, reports and conference papers using Edinburgh Study data.

July 2010 – Disclosure checks under scrutiny

People applying for particular types of job will be familiar with the Disclosure Scotland application form. But did you know that a crime you admitted to at a Children’s Hearing when you were as young as 8 might stop you getting a job when you are much older? At a recent event at the University of Edinburgh, organised by Professor Lesley McAra of the Edinburgh Study, experts and academics debated two major flaws with the enhanced disclosure process. First of all, early ‘convictions’ criminalise many young people who participate in the Children’s Hearing System, which often leads to poorer life chances in future years. And second, they give employers a false sense of security, as many people who could potentially pose a risk are never known to either the youth or the adult criminal justice system. Read more here.

June 2010 – Study findings in the Evening News

Susan McVie, one of the Edinburgh Study’s co-Directors, was quoted in a recent Edinburgh News article on gangs in the city. The article, headed “We’ve got a fight on our hands to deal with gangs” highlighted the launch of a new helpline for parents who are concerned that their children are involved in gangs. Although making the point that not all activities involving youth groups are likely to come to the attention of the police, Susan said that “Policing in Edinburgh is quite effective as they tend to break the bigger gangs up into smaller clusters. There are a smaller group of gangs which get involved in real violence, knife crime or theft, but they are few”. To read more on this article, click here.

May 2010 – New research findings published

Findings from the Edinburgh Study have challenged the way in which youth justice is administered in the UK. In a special edition of the journal Criminology and Criminal Justice, Lesley McAra and Susan McVie argue that to deliver justice, systems need to address four key facts about crime: 1) that serious offending is linked to individual vulnerability and social adversity; 2) that early identification of ‘at risk’ children is problematic and runs the risk of labelling and stigmatizing them; 3) that pathways out of offending are facilitated or impeded by critical moments in the teenage years; and 4) that diversionary strategies are needed to help young people desist from offending. For more information about this article, click here.

February 2010 – Study Findings inform important policy debates

A report from the charity group Action for Children Scotland has highlighted the importance of the Edinburgh Study findings. The report, entitled ‘Where’s Kilbrandon Now?’, presents the findings of a specialist panel who met in November 2009 to consider proposals for reforming the Children’s Hearing System. The report states that the Edinburgh Study “should be of immense interest and use to government, councils and panels in shaping the services needed and avoiding the mistakes of the past”. To read the report in full, click here.

Lothian and Borders Chief Constable David Strang referred to the study in an interview with the Herald newspaper on 23rd February. Referring to the need to review how we help young people to avoid becoming seriously involved in offending, Mr Strang said that the police and other agencies should look at research findings from the Edinburgh Study which show that school exclusion significantly increases the risk of young people offending. He said “We know there is a huge link between truancy, school exclusion and crime. We are already doing a lot of work with 14, 15 and 16-year-olds, but if we know about the link between exclusion and crime, why are we not doing more?”. These findings will be published in the journal Criminology and Criminal Justice in the summer.

August 2009 – Study Director becomes a Professor

Many congratulations to the principal Director of the Edinburgh Study, Lesley McAra, who was awarded a personal Chair at the University of Edinburgh in 2009. She is Professor of Penology and her inaugural lecture entitled ‘Crime and Punishment in a Small Nation: Why Penology Matters’ was held on 15th December 2009, which focused heavily on findings from the Edinburgh Study.

June 2006 – Research Digests Published

School Experience and Delinquency at Ages 13 to 16

Social Inclusion and Early Desistance from Crime

The Effect of Neighbourhoods on Adolescent Property Offending

Neighbourhood Effects on Youth Delinquency and Drug Use

May 2006 – Records Data Collection

We have started collecting information from the Scottish Criminal Records Office (SCRO). We sent a letter to all participants to give them the opportunity to opt out of this part of the research. If you have any questions about this please contact the Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime team.