College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Youth crime study recognised in impact awards

A study into youth offending in Scotland has been shortlisted for a prestigious prize which celebrates research excellence.

The study by Edinburgh Law School Professors Lesley McAra and Susan McVie is a finalist for the Celebrating Impact Prize 2019.

The annual award is presented by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).  

Research impact

The Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime study looks at youth offending and the impact of interventions.

The study has contributed to the preparation of the Age of Criminal Responsibility Bill, which is currently progressing through the Scottish Parliament.

The Bill seeks to raise the age at which a child in Scotland can be held responsible for a crime from eight to 12.

In Scotland the age of criminal responsibility has been set at age 8 since 1932.  It is one of the lowest ages of criminal responsibility in the world.

Examining policy

The research evidence was used by the Scottish Government advisory group which considered whether the age of criminal responsibility should be higher than 8. 

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), which has recommended 12 as the minimum age of criminal responsibility for over a decade, is considering whether to raise its recommendation to 14.

The work on the age of criminal responsibility is part of the wider Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime, which addresses a range of questions about the causes of criminal behaviours in young people.

The research is longitudinal study of a group of more than 4,300 young people who started secondary school in Edinburgh in 1998.

The study has led directly to reform in youth justice policy and practice in Scotland and has had international influence.

Winners of the Celebrating Impact Prize will be announced at an awards ceremony at the Royal Society in London on 9 July.

Susan and I are deeply honoured to be recognised by the ERSC in this way. We have both dedicated our careers to making a difference, and to fight for justice for young people who come into conflict with the law. Our grateful thanks go out to all Edinburgh Study cohort members who have shared their experiences with us. Without their commitment to participating in the Study we would not have had the data that has helped drive more effective youth justice policy within Scotland. This is for them.

Professor Lesley McAraEdinburgh Law School 

Raising the age of criminal responsibility in Scotland from eight to twelve is a monumental step.  There has been a great deal of controversy over this in the past, which has delayed legislative change.  Through the evidence produced by the Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime, we have been able to demonstrate the longer term damaging effects of criminalising children - both for the individuals themselves and for wider society.  We are delighted to have been nominated for this impact prize and our huge thanks go to all the young people who took part in the study over many years.  We are continuing to argue for the age of criminal responsibility to be raised even higher.

Professor Susan McVieEdinburgh Law School

Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime

Celebrating Impact Prize 

Edinburgh Law School