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Professor David J. Smith

Honorary Professorial Fellow

Tel: +44 (0)131 650 2008


David J. Smith graduated in Psychology and Philosophy at Oxford in 1963. After eight years in market research he moved to PEP (Political and Economic Planning) to conduct a wide-ranging programme of research on racial discrimination and disadvantage (Racial Disadvantage in Britain, 1977), later launching two follow-up studies in the 1980s and 1990s. From 1979, when PEP evolved into PSI (The Policy Studies Institute), he headed the Social Justice and Social Order group. In the 1980s at the request of the National Advisory Commission on Human Rights he carried out (with Gerry Chambers) a programme of four studies on sectarian differences in Northern Ireland (Inequality in Northern Ireland, 1991). He became involved in criminology through directing the study of Police and People in London (1983) and more recently edited (with Alistair Henry) a volume of essays reflecting on changes since that time (Transformations of Policing, 2007). In the early 1990s he directed a programme of research on the democratic framework of policing (Democracy and Policing, 1994) and recently returned to this topic in a 2012 paper on police and crime commissioners. In the 1980s, with Sally Tomlinson he carried out a large-scale longitudinal study of children in 21 comprehensive schools in England, focusing on school effectiveness (The School Effect, 1989). In the early 1990s, with Sir Michael Rutter, he directed an international comparative study of time trends in youth problems, including criminal offending, drug and alcohol abuse, suicide, and depression (Psychosocial Disorders in Young People, 1995).

Apart from a one-year period as Visiting Fellow at Lincoln College, Oxford (1988/89) David had not pursued a university career, but he returned to university in 1994 (31 years after graduating) as Professor of Criminology at Edinburgh. With colleagues (Lesley McAra and Susan McVie) he established another large-scale longitudinal study, The Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime and has published papers and reports arising from that study, for example on links between offending and victimization, and on the influence of friends on teenage offending. In recent years he has also written on race and crime, the foundations of legitimacy, and the effectiveness of the juvenile justice system. David became closely involved with the European Society of Criminology in its early years, and was founding editor of European Journal of Criminology.

David retired from the Chair of Criminology at Edinburgh in 2006 while retaining an active role in the Edinburgh Study. He now lives in London and is Visiting Professor at the London School of Economics (Mannheim Centre) as well as Honorary Professorial Fellow of Criminology at Edinburgh. Over the two years ending July 2010 he was a member of the Independent Commission on Youth Crime and Antisocial Behaviour and edited the book, A New Response to Youth Crime (2010) that accompanies the Commission’s own Report, Time for a Fresh Start. This continues earlier work in the policy arena, for example as Specialist Adviser to Parliamentary committees.

Recent publications:

A New Response to Youth Crime, Willan, 2010.

‘Democracy and police and crime commissioners’, in Tim Newburn and Jill Peay (eds.), Policing: Politics, culture and control, Hart, 2012, pp. 219-244 (with T. Jones and T. Newburn).

‘The influence of friends on teenage offending: How long does it last?’, European Journal of Criminology 2013, 10(1), pp. 40-58 (with Russell Ecob).