Changing patterns of youth crime and justice

A core element of AQMeN’s research on crime has involved examining changes in patterns of youth crime and justice over time. In addition to our research on the crime drop in Scotland and our study of criminal careers over the period of the crime drop, we have examined the relationship between youth crime and poverty, assessed the case for increasing diversionary responses within youth justice, and provided detailed overviews of the changing nature of youth justice in Scotland.

(1) Youth crime and poverty (McAra and McVie)
The relationship between poverty and violence is well known, but less well explained. In this research, we attempted to better understand the effect of poverty on youth violence in the early teenage years, while controlling for the presence of a range of other risk and protective factors. Using longitudinal data from the Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime, we found that violence was strongly associated with poverty at both the household and neighborhood levels. These relationships remained even when controlling for indicators of risk and protection linked to victimization, and relationships between children, their care-givers, and school. We conclude that violence reduction is best effected by: support for victims, enhancing parenting skills, transforming school-curricula, and tackling poverty. Above all, young people involved in violence should be conceptualized as vulnerable children rather than offenders.

Further information:
McAra, L. and McVie, S. (2016) Understanding youth violence: the mediating effects of gender, poverty and vulnerability. Journal of Criminal Justice, 45: 71-77. DOI: 10.1016/j.jcrimjus.2016.02.011.

McAra, L. and McVie, S. (2015) The reproduction of poverty. Scottish Justice Matters 3(3): 4-5.

(2) Promoting diversion within youth justice (McAra and McVie)
Most contemporary youth justice systems have a set of competing rationales, from welfare and protection at one extreme to punishment and retribution at the other. This has been reflected differently in policy frameworks for different jurisdictions. For most of the last five decades, system of youth justice in Scotland has been predicated on principles of welfare and this is reflected in the use of a tribunal based system that keeps children out of the criminal justice system. Using data from the Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime, however, we demonstrated that even a welfare-based system of justice can have negative effects in terms of secondary labelling and criminalization. In a series of articles, we have stated case for increased diversion from formal measures of intervention that may risk increasing rather than reducing offending behaviour.

Further information:
McAra, L. and McVie, S. (2015) The Case for Diversion and Minimum Necessary Intervention. Published in Goldson, B. and Muncie, J. (Eds) Youth Crime and Justice, 2nd Edition. Sage.

McAra, L. and McVie, S. (2017) The shrinking youth justice population: A change in behaviour or a change in the system? Scottish Justice Matters, 5(1): 38-39.

McAra, L. and McVie, S. (forthcoming) Transformations in Youth Crime and Justice across Europe: Evidencing the Case for Diversion. In B. Goldson (Ed) Juvenile Justice in Europe: Past, Present and Future.

(3) The changing nature of youth justice in Scotland (Burman, McAra and McVie)
The system of youth justice in Scotland has been subject to significant change in recent years. In a series of papers, we have outlined these changes and explained the political and contextual factors underpinning these changes. In particular, we have described the emergence of a new system for dealing with children and young people involved in offending behaviour in Scotland: the Whole System Approach. These descriptive chapters draw on research evidence and reflect the broad programme of AQMeN research on crime and victimization.

Further information:
McAra, L. and McVie, S. (2014) The Scottish Juvenile Justice System: Policy and Practice. Published in Winterdyk, J. (Ed) Juvenile Justice: International Perspectives, Models and Trends. Boca Raton, Fl: CRC Press.

Murray, K., McGuiness, P., Burman, M. and McVie, S. (2015) Evaluation of the Whole System Approach to Young People Who Offend in Scotland. Glasgow: Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research Report.

Burman, M. and McVie, S. (2017) Scotland. In: Decker, S. H. and Marteache, N. (eds.) International Handbook of Juvenile Jus-tice. Springer International Publishing, pp. 371-394. ISBN 9783319450889 (doi:10.1007/978-3-319-45090-2_18)

Susan McVie

Lesley McCara