Chair of Penology

MA, PhD
View my full research profile

Biography

Lesley McAra is an alumna of the University of Edinburgh and of the Open University. She began her career as a researcher in the Scottish Office where she led a major programme of research evaluating social work criminal justice services.  In 1995, she joined the University of Edinburgh as Lecturer in Criminology, was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2005, and to the Chair of Penology in 2009.  Her inaugural lecture can be listened to here: http://podcast.is.ed.ac.uk:8080/Podcasts/law/2009-12-22/Crime_and_Punishment_in_a_Small_Nation__Why_Penology_Matters-audio.mp3

Lesley is a former Dean of the School of Law, the first woman to be appointed to that post.  She is currently a member of the Centre for Law and Society  and the Global Justice Academy  and an Associate Director of the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research. She was also the founder of the Empirical Legal Research Network, a cross-University initiative aimed at facilitating partnership-working across different disciplines, pooling expertise and functioning as a resource bank for researchers at all levels of career.  In 2014 she founded, and is currently Co-convenor of, the Leadership Foundation for Women in the Legal Profession.  

Lesley’s research interests lie in the general areas of the sociology of punishment and the sociology of law and deviance. Particular interests include: youth crime and juvenile justice; gender justice and community well-being; the politics of crime control; and comparative criminal justice. She is Co-Director (with Susan McVie and David Smith) of the Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime, a longitudinal programme of research on pathways into and out of offending for a cohort of around 4,300 young people. Funded by grants from the ESRC (R00237157, R000239150), the Nuffield Foundation and the Scottish Government, this study forms the evidence-base for the ‘Whole System Approach’ to juvenile justice which is currently being implemented across Scotland. Study findings have also been utilised in penal reform campaigns both nationally and internationally.   Lesley is currently a member of the Human Rights Action Group on Justice and Safety and the Scottish Government’s Justice Leaders Network.

In her more recent research, The Old Town Story-telling Project, Lesley has been pioneering methods of co-production and exploring the role of the performance arts in promoting community safety and well-being.  Her overall ethos is to conduct research with, in and for the community, a mode of knowledge infusion which involves partnering the University with the community within which it is located, utilising the research evidence to promote and campaign for positive social and political change, and undertaking engagement and outreach work as a fundamental part of the research process. In 2013, Lesley was a joint winner (with Susan McVie) of the Howard League for Penal Reform Research Medal which celebrates high quality research from ‘new thinking’ and ‘radical researchers’ who have changed penal policy and practice.  This was followed in 2016 with the Chancellor’s award for research impact which honours colleagues at the University of Edinburgh whose outstanding research has made a demonstrable contribution to society.

Lesley is Editor-in-Chief (with Ursula Kilkelly) of Youth Justice and is Co-editor (with Alison Liebling and Shadd Maruna) of the Oxford Handbook of Criminology.   Her previous teaching experience has covered several criminology courses at undergraduate and postgraduate level including the MSc in Criminology and Criminal Justice.  She welcomes applications from doctoral candidates in any area of her expertise.

Research Groups

Lesley is currently a member of the Centre for Law and Society  and the Global Justice Academy  and an Associate Director of the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research.

Teaching

Lesley's previous teaching experience has covered several criminology courses at undergraduate and postgraduate level including the MSc in Criminology and Criminal Justice.

Websites

Professor Lesley McAra's Homepage at Edinburgh Law School

PhD Supervisees

Dinah Aitken  'In harm's way: the experience of young people with a family member in prison'

Louise Brangan  'Comparative Penality in Ireland and Scotland'

Daniela Rodríguez Gutiérrez  'Penal transformations: The case of the Chilean youth justice system'

Kate Tobin  'Facts, lies and evidence: a crisis in decision-making across the public and voluntary sectors'

Books and Reports

Susan McVie, Lesley McAra, J. Palmer, Sample Safeguarding Exercise, (Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime, 2007)
Abstract: The purpose of this report was to inform the methodological development of future phases of the study. We are immensely grateful to the Scottish Executive for funding this sample safeguarding exercise to determine how successfully and by what methods the cohort might best be contacted in the future. The final report is available on request.

Lesley McAra, Susan McVie, Criminal Justice Transitions, (University of Edinburgh, 2007)
Abstract: This report explores transitions into the adult criminal justice system amongst a large cohort of young people who were involved in the Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime. It includes: a description of patterns of criminal convictions and disposals for young people up to age 19 (on average); an examination of the characteristics and institutional histories of cohort members with a criminal record as compared with youngsters with no such record; and an exploration of the profile of young people who make the transition from the children’s hearings system to the adult criminal justice system as compared with youngsters with a hearings record but who have not made this transition by age 19.

Lesley McAra, Sarah Armstrong, Perspectives on Punishment: The Contours of Control, (Oxford University Press, 2006)
Abstract: The book offers an incisive collection of contemporary research into the problems of crime control and punishment. It has three inter-related aims: to take stock of current thinking on punishment, regulation, and control in the early years of a new century and in the wake of a number of critical junctures, including 9/11, which have transformed the social, political, and cultural environment; to present a selection of the diverse epistemological and methodological frameworks which inform current research; and finally to set out some fruitful directions for the future study of punishment. The contributions to this collection cover some of the most exciting and challenging areas of current research including terrorism and the politics of fear, penalty in societies in transition, penal policy and the construction of political identity, the impact of digital culture on modes of compliance, the emergent hegemony of information and surveillance systems, and the evolving politics of victim hood. Taken together, this work draws connections between local problems of crime control, transnational forms of governance, and the ways in which certain political and jurisprudential discourses have come to dominate policy and practice in western penal systems.

Lesley McAra, Patterns of Referral to the Children's Hearing System for Drug or Alchol Misuse, (Centre for Law and Society, University of Edinburgh, 2005)

David J. Smith, Lesley McAra, Gender and Youth Offending, (Centre for Law and Society, University of Edinburgh, 2004)

Lesley McAra, Truancy, School Exclusion and Substance Misuse, (Centre for Law and Society, University of Edinburgh, 2004)

David J. Smith, Jon Shute, John Flint, Susan McVie, Rona Woodward, Lesley McAra, The Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime: Key Findings at Ages 12 and 13, (Centre for Law and Society, University of Edinburgh, 2001)
Abstract: The aim of this report is to present the key findings from the first three years of the Edinburgh Study, covering two sweeps of data collection. As the findings cover a broad range of topic areas, it is beyond the scope of this initial report to include an extensive review of the literature or a detailed discussion of theoretical issues. The content of the report is mainly descriptive, although relevant contextual information is referred to in each chapter. A concluding section is given at the end of each chapter, to sum up these findings, identify further areas of analysis and contemplate the issues for future stages of the Edinburgh.

Lesley McAra, Social Work in the Criminal Justice System, (The Stationery Office, 1998)

Lesley McAra, Social Work in the Criminal Justice System, (The Stationery Office, 1998)

Articles

Lesley McAra, 'Can Criminologists Change the World?: Critical Reflections on the Politics, Performance and Effects of Criminal Justice', (2016), British Journal of Criminology
Abstract: Based on a Scottish case study, this article offers a critical reflection on criminal justice and the impact agenda. It will argue that the pathway to impact requires criminologists to interrogate more fully the inter-relationships between criminal justice as: (i) political strategy; (ii) institutional performance; and (iii) embodied practice. Only by acknowledging the potential for dissonance between these dimensions, is it possible for the discipline to evolve a praxis which is theoretically informed, sensitive to political, spatial and temporal context as well having the highest potential for real-world transformation.

Lesley McAra, Susan McVie, 'Understanding youth violence: the mediating effects of gender, poverty and vulnerability', (2016), Journal of Criminal Justice
Abstract: This article aims to improve understanding of youth violence in the early teenage years. Drawing on evidence from the Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime (a prospective longitudinal programme of research tracking the lives of around 4,300 young people), it explores the mediating effects of gender and poverty in the presence of various risk and protective measures. Our findings show that violence is strongly associated with gender and poverty at both the household and neighbourhood levels. These relationships remain even when controlling for indicators of risk and protection linked to victimization, and relationships between children, their care-givers, and school. The findings provide further support for our theory of ‘negotiated order’, which posits that formal and informal regulatory orders play a key role in the development, and sustaining of offender identities (McAra and McVie 2012). They highlight the ways in which violence becomes a resource for the disempowered to negotiate such pathways, gaining status and a sense of self-worth through violent encounters. 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 conceptualised as vulnerable children rather than offenders.

Lesley McAra, Susan McVie, 'Poverty matters ', (2015), Scottish Justice Matters, Vol 3, pp 2

Lesley McAra, Susan McVie, 'The reproduction of poverty ', (2015), Scottish Justice Matters, Vol 3, pp 4

Lesley McAra, Susan McVie, 'Maximum Diversion Minimum Intervention: An Evidence Base for Kilbrandon', (2014), Scottish Justice Matters, Vol 2, pp 21-22

Lesley McAra, Susan McVie, 'Negotiated Order: The Groundwork for a Theory of Offending Pathways', (2012), Criminology and Criminal Justice, Vol 12, pp 347-75
Abstract: This article explores the role which formal and informal regulatory orders play in the development of offender identity. Drawing on quantitative and qualitative data from the Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime, it argues that the cultural practices of formal orders (such as those imposed by schools and the police) and informal orders (such as the rules governing peer interactions) mirror each other in respect of their fundamental dynamics – animated primarily by an inclusionary–exclusionary imperative. Formal orders differentiate between categories of young people on the basis of class and suspiciousness. Informal orders differentiate between individuals on the basis of adherence to group norms, territorial sovereignty, and gender appropriate demeanour. Being excluded by either set of orders undermines the capacity of the individual to negotiate, limits autonomy and constrains choice. This renders the individual more likely to absorb identities ascribed to them with damaging consequences in terms of offending behaviour and the individual’s sense of self.

Alistair Henry, Lesley McAra, 'Negotiated Orders: Implications for Theory and Practice in Criminology', (2012), Criminology and Criminal Justice, pp 341-45

Lesley McAra, 'Global Politics and Local Culture: A Response to Nicola Lacey', (2011), Punishment & Society, Vol 13, pp 96-104

Lesley McAra, Susan McVie, 'Youth Crime and Justice: Key Messages from the Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime', (2010), Criminology and Criminal Justice, Vol 10, pp 179-209
Abstract: Based on findings from the Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime, this article challenges the evidence-base which policy-makers have drawn on to justify the evolving models of youth justice across the UK (both in Scotland and England/Wales). It argues that to deliver justice, systems need to address four key facts about youth crime: serious offending is linked to a broad range of vulnerabilities and social adversity; early identification of at-risk children is not an exact science and runs the risk of labelling and stigmatizing; pathways out of offending are facilitated or impeded by critical moments in the early teenage years, in particular school exclusion; and diversionary strategies facilitate the desistance process.The article concludes that the Scottish system should be better placed than most other western systems to deliver justice for children (due to its founding commitment to decriminalization and destigmatization). However, as currently implemented, it appears to be failing many young people.

Lesley McAra, 'La justice des mineurs en Ecosse: pressions convergentes et singularités culturelles', (2009), Déviance et Société, Vol 33, pp 383-98
Abstract: This paper highlights the ways in which the formerly welfarist system of youth justice in Scotland has become infused with a set of competing and contradictory logics, including those of punitiveness, marketization, and managerialism. These changes have constructed a new set of audiences for youth justice (namely victims and communities) whose needs agencies must now strive to satisfy. All of this has been accompanied by a moral panic about youth offending started by Ministers and reinforced by the media. The paper argues that the key to understanding Scottish trends lies in an elision which has taken place between political capacity building (modalities of power) and a process of cultural drift (modalities of identity) in the post-devolutionary era. As such the Scottish case highlights the need to explore both convergent pressures and cultural singularities in building theories of penal transformation.

Lesley McAra, 'Crime, Criminology and Criminal Justice in Scotland ', (2008), European Journal of Criminology, Vol 5, pp 481-504
Abstract: This survey of Scotland reviews: core Scottish criminal justice institutions; statistical trends in crime and punishment over the past forty years; the history and politics of Scottish criminal justice; and the emergence of a distinctively Scottish criminology. In particular, it highlights the cross-cutting modalities of power and identity that have shaped both institutional and policy development and made strong linkages between knowledge and politics.

Lesley McAra, Susan McVie, 'No Way Out? ', (2007), Children in Scotland, Vol 73, pp 8-9

Lesley McAra, Susan McVie, 'Youth Justice?: The Impact of System Contact on Patterns of Desistance from Offending', (2007), European Journal of Criminology, Vol 4, pp 315-45
Abstract: This article assesses the effectiveness of the Scottish model of youth justice in the context of a growing body of international research which is challenging the ‘evidence-base’ of policy in many western jurisdictions. Drawing on findings from the Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime, it shows how labelling processes within agency working cultures serve to recycle certain categories of children into the youth justice system, whilst other serious offenders escape the tutelage of the formal system altogether. The deeper a child penetrates the formal system, the less likely they are to desist from offending. The article concludes that the key to reducing offending lies in minimal intervention and maximum diversion. While the Scottish system should be better placed than most other western systems at delivering such an agenda (due to its founding commitment to decriminalisation and destigmatisation), as currently implemented, it appears to be failing many young people.

Lesley McAra, Susan McVie, 'The Usual Suspects?: Street-life, Young People and the Police', (2005), Criminal Justice, Vol 5, pp 5-36
Abstract: This article explores children's experience of policing. Drawing on findings from the Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime, it argues that the police may be unfairly targeting certain categories of young people. Evidence is presented on the ways in which police working rules serve to construct a population of permanent suspects among children. The article concludes that the police act less as legal subjects and more as class subjects in their interactions with young people and that the policing of children may serve to sustain and reproduce the very problems which the institution ostensibly attempts to contain or eradicate.

Lesley McAra, 'Negotiated Order: Gender, Youth Transitions and Crime', (2005), Selected papers from the British Criminology Conference, Vol 6

Lesley McAra, 'Modelling Penal Transformation ', (2005), Punishment & Society, Vol 7, pp 277-302
Abstract: Using a systems analytical framework, this article explains how and why the Scottish penal system has followed a different trajectory to a number of its European and US counterparts. It highlights the manner in which penal-welfare values have continued to dominate all aspects of policy and practice in the face of the social and cultural factors that have been identified as prompting significant shifts in the nature and function of penality in other jurisdictions. The article argues that pressures for change within Scotland have been mediated by a number of localized political and cultural processes (relating specifically to elite policy networks and the characteristics of Scottish civic culture). These processes have facilitated a degree of boundary closure and self-reflexive modes of communication within the Scottish system and it is these which, to date, have mitigated against the sense of structural and cultural strain driving transformation elsewhere. The Scottish case suggests: that the environments which penal systems inhabit are complex and turbulent phenomena, containing a range of competing pressures with differential rather than uniform effects; and that small-scale penal systems have particular features which make them better able to ride out such turbulence without fundamental damage to their central principles and purposes.

Lesley McAra, 'The Cultural and Institutional Dynamics of Transformation: Youth Justice in Scotland and England and Wales', (2004), Cambrian Law Review, Vol 35, pp 23-54

Lesley McAra, '"Plus Ça Change, Plus C’est La Même Chose": L’évolution du système de justice pour les mineurs en Ecosse', (2002), Déviance et Société, Vol 26, pp 367-86
Abstract: Cet article explique comment et pourquoi le systeme de justice pour les mineurs en Ecosse a suivi une trajectoire differente de celle suivie en Europe et aux États Unis. Il éclaire le fait que les valeurs de l’assistance pénale dominent touts les aspects de la politique et de la pratique alors que les mêmes processus sociaux et culturels ont été identifiés comme étant la source d’importants changements dans la nature et la fonction de la pénalité dans d’autres jurisdictions. L’argument de cet article est que ceci est le résultat de la constance et de l’influence des réseaux d’actuers en Ecosse, du charactère distinct de la culture civique ecossaise et de la petite taille du système lui même.

Lesley McAra, P. Young, 'Juvenile Justice in Scotland ', (1997), Criminal Justice, Vol 15

Chapters

Lesley McAra, Susan McVie, 'Developmental and life-course criminology Innovations, impacts and applications' in Oxford Handbook of Criminology (Oxford University Press 2017)
Abstract: This chapter reviews the contexts in which developmental and life course criminology (DLC) emerged and has endured. It offers a critical review of theoretical and methodological innovation and advancement within the paradigm, and explores the policy solutions offered by DLC scholars. Overall, it is argued that DLC has flourished despite hostile criticism from those with other epistemological and ontological leanings because of its social, economic and political acumen. Some concerns remain, however, about the potential for conceptual stasis within the paradigm due to a self-referential tendency that has become evident in the ways in which DLC scholarship is published and funded. The chapter concludes that DLC has radical potential provided it exhibits sufficient reflexivity in the ways in which it deploys theory and method. Important lessons can be learned from DLC and we urge wider disciplinary engagement.

Lesley McAra, 'Criminological knowledge and the politics of impact ' in Sarah Armstrong, Jarrett Blaustein, Alistair Henry (ed.) Reflexivity and Criminal Justice (Palgrave Macmillan 2017) 149-168
Abstract: This chapter explores the politics of engaging in a research agenda aimed at maximising the impact of criminological knowledge on policy and practice. It is based on a case study of Scottish penal developments, with specific reference to the Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime, a longitudinal programme of research which has had demonstrable influence on the nature and function of Scottish juvenile justice (and beyond) (Howard League 2013). The chapter builds on an article first published in the British Journal of Criminology (McAra 2016), which highlighted a major dissonance between policy discourse on youth crime in Scotland and the decision-making practices of key institutions within the juvenile and adult justice systems. This article concluded that, for maximum impact, criminologists needed to engage with and challenge both political and institutional practice: a multi-level approach to transformative action. In this chapter the argument is further developed by exploring in more detail three interrelated implications of this local history: (i) what it tells us about statecraft, namely the nature and operation of the power and right to punish; (ii) what it tells us about the limits of criminological influence and impediments to impact; and consequently (iii) what it suggests about the future of criminology as an applied and policy relevant discipline.

Lesley McAra, 'Youth justice ' in Alison Liebling, Shadd Maruna, Lesley McAra (ed.) Oxford Handbook of Criminology (Oxford University Press 2016)
Abstract: This chapter explores the founding principles, operational functioning and impact of the institutions which have evolved across the four nations in the United Kingdom to deal with children and young people who come into conflict with the law. Its takes as it principal empirical focus the shifting patterns of control which have emerged over the past twenty years: a period characterised by a persistent disjuncture between normative claims about youth justice, evolving policy discourse, and the impact of youth justice practices on the lives of young people. The chapter concludes by arguing that unless there is better alignment between these dimensions, then justice for children and young people cannot and will never be delivered.

Lesley McAra, Susan McVie, 'The Case for Diversion and Minimum Necessary Intervention ' in Barry Goldson, John Muncie (ed.) Youth Crime and Justice (SAGE Publications Ltd 2015) 119-136

Lesley McAra, Susan McVie, 'Delivering Justice for Children and Young People Key Messages from the Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime' in Anita Dockley (ed.) Justice for Young People (Howard League for Penal Reform 2013) 3-14

Lesley McAra, Susan McVie, 'Critical Debates in Developmental and Life-course Criminology ' in Mike Maguire, Rod Morgan, Robert Reiner (ed.) The Oxford Handbook of Criminology (Oxford University Press 2012) 531-562

Lesley McAra, 'The Impact of Multi-Level Governance on Crime Control and Punishment ' in Adam Crawford (ed.) International and Comparative Criminal Justice and Urban Governance (Cambridge University Press 2011) 276-303
Abstract: Within the sociology of punishment, a veritable industry has built up both charting and theorising changes in the nature and function of crime control and penal practice in the context of late modernity (Garland 2001; Feeley and Simon 1992; O'Malley 1992). In this chapter, I will suggest that this field of scholarship has become dominated by a methodological dualism between accounts which lay emphasis on structural factors and those which lay emphasis on cultural factors. I will argue that this dualism constrains our capacity to understand the variations in crime control and penal policy which are evident across many Western jurisdictions, principally because it fails adequately to capture the multi-level nature of contemporary modes of governance both above, but, more particularly, below the nation state. A key aim of the chapter is to set out an alternative methodological strategy with which to interrogate recent developments; a strategy which draws on the vocabulary of systems theory. The chapter is built around a case study comparing Scotland and Spain with England and it comprises four interrelated parts. Part 1 overviews key variations in crime control and penal policy within my selected jurisdictions as they have evolved over the past forty years. Part 2 describes the methodological dualism within the sociology of punishment and highlights its limitations in terms of this case study. Part 3 sets out an alternative methodological strategy. Finally, Part 4 implements this strategy, offering a rereading of the case study within its own terms.

Lesley McAra, Susan McVie, 'Youth Justice? The Impact of System Contact on Desistance from Offending' in Stephen Farrall, Richard Sparks, Shadd Maruna, Mike Hough (ed.) Escape Routes (Routledge 2011) 81-106
Abstract: This chapter assesses the effectiveness of the Scottish model of youth justice in the context of a growing body of international research that is challenging the 'evidence base' of policy in many western jurisdictions. Drawing on findings from the Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime, it shows how labelling processes within agency working cultures serve to recycle certain categories of children into the youth justice system, whereas other serious offenders escape the tutelage of the formal system altogether. The deeper a child penetrates the formal system, the less likely he or she is to desist from offending. The article concludes that the key to reducing offending lies in minimal intervention and maximum diversion. Although the Scottish system should be better placed than most other western systems at delivering such an agenda (owing to its founding commitment to decriminalization and destigmatization), as currently implemented it appears to be failing many young people.

Lesley McAra, 'Scottish Youth Justice Convergent Pressures and Cultural Singularities' in Francis Bailleau, Yves Cartuyvels (ed.) The Criminalisation of Youth (VUB Press 2010) 93-110

Lesley McAra, Susan McVie, 'Youth Crime and Justice in Scotland ' in Hazel Croall, Gerry Mooney, Mary Munro (ed.) Criminal Justice in Scotland (Willan Publishing 2010) 67-89
Abstract: “Society is, we believe, seriously concerned to secure a more effective and discriminatory machinery for interventions for the avoidance and reduction of juvenile delinquency.” (Kilbrandon, 1964) This quotation from the report of the Kilbrandon committee which set up the existing system of juvenile justice in Scotland gives a flavour of the Scottish civic culture which has shaped Scotland’s unique institutions and processes for dealing with young offenders (McAra 2008). It highlights a sense of common-ownership of the problems posed by young offenders and a commitment to the development of effective practice. It also reflects a recurrent preoccupation of policy elites that extant structures of juvenile justice are inadequate to the task of reducing offending amongst children and young people and require to be reformed. This chapter on youth crime and justice overviews the historical development of Scottish juvenile justice and describes the operation of the current system. It also presents empirical data relating to the nature and pattern of youth crime in Scotland, including data from the Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime (the Edinburgh Study) and assesses the effectiveness of the system.

Lesley McAra, Susan McVie, 'Youth Justice? The Impact of Agency Contact on Desistance from Offending' in Michael Little, Barbara Maughan (ed.) Effective Interventions for Children in Need (Ashgate Publishing 2010) pt II, ch 2
Abstract: This chapter assesses the effectiveness of the Scottish model of youth justice in the context of a growing body of international research which is challenging the ‘evidence-base’ of policy in many western jurisdictions. Drawing on findings from the Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime, it shows how labelling processes within agency working cultures serve to recycle certain categories of children into the youth justice system, whilst other serious offenders escape the tutelage of the formal system altogether. The deeper a child penetrates the formal system, the less likely they are to desist from offending. The article concludes that the key to reducing offending lies in minimal intervention and maximum diversion. While the Scottish system should be better placed than most other western systems at delivering such an agenda (due to its founding commitment to decriminalisation and destigmatisation), as currently implemented, it appears to be failing many young people.

Lesley McAra, 'Models of Youth Justice ' in David Smith (ed.) A New Response to Youth Crime (Willan 2010) 287-317

Lesley McAra, Susan McVie, 'Youth Justice? The Impact of Agency Contact on Desistance from Offending' in Barry Goldson, John Muncie (ed.) Youth Crime and Juvenile Justice (SAGE Publications Ltd 2009) pt ii, ch 3
Abstract: This chapter assesses the effectiveness of the Scottish model of youth justice in the context of a growing body of international research which is challenging the ‘evidence-base’ of policy in many western jurisdictions. Drawing on findings from the Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime, it shows how labelling processes within agency working cultures serve to recycle certain categories of children into the youth justice system, whilst other serious offenders escape the tutelage of the formal system altogether. The deeper a child penetrates the formal system, the less likely they are to desist from offending. The article concludes that the key to reducing offending lies in minimal intervention and maximum diversion. While the Scottish system should be better placed than most other western systems at delivering such an agenda (due to its founding commitment to decriminalisation and destigmatisation), as currently implemented, it appears to be failing many young people.

Lesley McAra, 'Welfarism in Crisis Crime Control and Penal Practice in Post-Devolution Scotland' in Michael Keating (ed.) Scottish Social Democracy (P.I.E. - Peter Lang 2007) 115-58

Lesley McAra, 'Welfare in Crisis? Youth Justice in Scotland' in John Muncie, Barry Goldson (ed.) Comparative Youth Justice (SAGE Publications Ltd 2006) 127-45

Sarah Armstrong, Lesley McAra, 'Audiences, Borders, Architeture The Contours of Control' in Sarah Armstrong, Lesley McAra (ed.) Perspectives on Punishment (Oxford University Press 2006) 1-30

Lesley McAra, 'The Scottish Juvenile Justice System Policy and Practice' in John A. Winterdyk (ed.) Juvenile Justice Systems (Canadian Scholars' Press 2002) 441-75

Lesley McAra, 'The Politics of Penality An Overview of the Development of Penal Policy in Scotland' in Peter Duff, Neil Hutton (ed.) Criminal Justice in Scotland (Ashgate Publishing 1999) 355-80