David J Smith

Page Contents >

Department: Mannheim centre for criminology

. +44 (0)20 8274 0495
Email: d.j.smith1@blueyonder.co.uk


DAVID J. SMITH is Visiting Professor in the Mannheim Centre and Honorary Professor of Criminology at the University of Edinburgh (School of Law). For more than twenty years he was Head of the Social Justice and Social Order Group at the Policy Studies Institute. He has published on a range of topics including racial discrimination and disadvantage, religious discrimination in Northern Ireland, policing, school effectiveness, adolescent development, crime and other youth problems, and the youth justice system. He is the author of Racial Disadvantage in Britain (Penguin, 1977); Police and People in London (PSI, 1983, four vols., with Jeremy Gray and Stephen Small); Evaluating Police Work (PSI, 1988, with Christine Horton); The School Effect (PSI, 1989, with Sally Tomlinson); Inequality in Northern Ireland (1991, Oxford University Press, with Gerald Chambers); Racial Justice at Work (PSI, 1991, with C. McCrudden and C. Brown) Democracy and Policing (PSI, 1994, with T. Jones and T. Newburn); and editor of Coming to Terms with Policing (Routledge, 1989, with R. Morgan); Understanding the Underclass (PSI, 1992); Psychosocial Disorders in Young People (Wiley, 1995, with M. Rutter); Transformations of Policing (Ashgate, 2007, with A. Henry); and A New Response to Youth Crime (Willan, 2010). He has published over seventy papers, reports and book chapters on a similar range of topics. He was founding editor of the European Journal of Criminology. He is a member of the Independent Commission on Youth Crime and Antisocial Behaviour.

Research interests

After putting together (with Sir Michael Rutter) a cross-national study of trends in youth problems such as crime, suicide, depression, alcohol and drug abuse, I established The Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime, a longitudinal study of an entire cohort of young people in Edinburgh who transferred to secondary school in 1998. This study, now led by Prof. Lesley McAra and funded by ESRC, the Nuffield Foundation, and the Scottish Executive, has been central to my research activity since then. With data from that study I have been working on links between victimization and offending, gender and youth offending, and the influence of friends on offending. Following from my earlier interest in racial discrimination and disadvantage I have continued to write on ethnic minorities, crime, and criminal justice. In recent years I have returned to my earliest criminological research on policing with a new emphasis on the foundations of legitimacy. Although my research has always been related to policy issues, I have recently become more urgently concerned with developing the implications for criminal justice policy of scientific knowledge on youth offending.



  • A New Response to Youth Crime (Willan, 2010)

    Public concern about youth crime and antisocial behaviour has mounted in England and Wales for many years, even though the actual level of crime has continuously fallen since 1994. This rising anxiety is increased by a political arms race in which the parties compete to forge new weapons in a war against crime. New legislation has poured out of successive administrations at an ever-increasing pace, with young people often the target. Yet steeply rising expenditure on youth justice has yielded poor returns. The system tends to prosecute the same large numbers of young offenders even when crime is falling. It targets the same – mostly disadvantaged – young people again and again. It fails on the whole to change their behaviour for the better, without being effective, either, in making them face up to the consequences of what they have done. Meanwhile too little attention is given to preventing the development of antisocial behaviour in children and young people as they grow up.
        The time has come for a fresh start in the way we respond to youth crime. The Report of the Independent Commission on Youth Crime and Antisocial Behaviour sets out a blueprint for reform based on a clear set of principles. This book, which accompanies that Report, establishes the framework of evidence and detailed analysis that supports the Commission's proposals.

    The need for a fresh start – David J. Smith
    New patterns of youth – David J. Smith
    Time trends in youth crime and in justice system responses – Larissa Pople and David J. Smith
    Responding to youth crime – John Graham
    Responding to antisocial behaviour – Larissa Pople
    Causes of offending and antisocial behaviour – Michael Rutter
    Preventing youth crime – evidence and opportunities – J. David Hawkins, Brandon Welsh and David Utting
    Families and parenting – Barbara Maughan and Frances Gardner
    Models of youth justice – Lesley McAra
    Youth justice reform in Canada – Nicolas Bala, Peter J. Carrington and Julian V. Roberts
    Public opinion, politics and the response to youth crime – Trevor Jones
    Key reforms: principles, costs, benefits, politics – David J. Smith

  • Transformations of Policing (Ashgate, 2007, ed. Alistair Henry and David J. Smith)

    Police and People in London
    is still the largest and most detailed study of a police force and its relations with the public that has yet been undertaken in Britain. The twenty-five years since its publication has seen a constantly-accelerating rate of change in the legal framework of policing, in the arrangements for democratic accountability of the police, in the technologies involved in crime and policing, in management structures and methods in the police service, in financial control systems imposed by central government and in methods of assessing police performance. Over the same period, crime control has moved from the bottom to the top of the political agenda, leading to increasing pressure on the police to be seen to be effective. Transformations of Policing returns to the central issues discussed in 1983 and considers whether the main conclusions need to be revised in the light of what has happened since. It also reviews areas of debate and research that have emerged more recently and highlights areas of turbulence that are creating fundamentally different patterns from before and raising genuinely new questions.

    Looking back on Police and People in London – Alistair Henry
    The trajectory of 'private policing' – Les Johnston
    Police ethnography in the house of serious and organized crime – James Sheptycki
    Policing and ethnic minorities – Alistair Henry
    Public order: then and now – P. A. J. Waddington
    'Reassurance policing': feeling is believing – Adam Crawford
    The architecture of policing: towards a new theoretical model of the role of constraint-
    ased compliance in policing – Richard Jones
    Policing London, 20 years on – Mike Hough
    Managing the police through a time of change – Peter Neyroud
    The future of policing in Britain – Tim Newburn
    Policing our future – Clifford Shearing
    New challenges to police legitimacy – David J. Smith


  • 'An investigation of causal links between victimization and offending in adolescents', British Journal of Sociology 58.4, pp.633-59, 2007 (with Russell Ecob).

    There is a considerable body of evidence from earlier research to show that offending is associated with an increased risk of victimization, and being a victim with an increased risk of offending. There have been few earlier studies of the link. These have generally set out to test specific explanations, for example, the idea that the same lifestyles or routine activities may be associated with both victimization and offending. In a current study of a cohort of 4,300 adolescents in Edinburgh we have found a correlation of 0.421 between crime victimization and self-reported offending at the age of 15 when offending peaks. Variables chosen to test three broad types of theory—life-style and routine activities, weak social bonds, aspects of personality— are shown to be related both to victimization and to offending in adolescence. The present analysis uses latent class growth mixture models to track the dynamic relationships over time between adolescent victimization and offending both before and after controlling for these explanatory variables. In the short term, offending is strongly related to a later rise in victimization, but in the longer term to a fall that tends to cancel out the earlier rise. These findings remain the same after controlling for the ten explanatory variables. Victimization is associated with a later rise in offending in the longer term. The theoretical perspectives suggested by earlier researchers are fairly successful in explaining this linkage running from victimization to offending. Future research should focus on the role of peer influence in linking victimization and offending, and should push forward the analysis into the adult years. The implications for criminal justice policy could be far-reaching. 

  • 'The foundations of legitimacy', in Tom Tyler (ed.), Legitimacy and Criminal Justice. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2007, pp.30-58.

  • 'New challenges to police legitimacy', in Alistair Henry and D. J. Smith (eds.), Transformations of Policing, Ashgate, 2007, pp.273-306.

  • 'Crime and the life course', in M. Maguire, R. Morgan and R. Reiner (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Criminology, 4th edition, pp.641-686. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. 

  • 'The effectiveness of the juvenile justice system', Criminal Justice 5(2), 2005, pp.181-195.

    Systematic assessment of the substantial research evidence on 'what works' has shown that flagship programmes have a modest effect, on average, in changing the future behaviour of young offenders. Yet actual juvenile justice systems do not typically deliver the modest benefits provided by programmes selected for evaluation, and probably they never will. Comparative research shows that a passive and lenient juvenile justice system may produce the same level of youth offending as an active and punitive one. Evidence that some programmes work should not be used as a platform for expanding the scope and activity of the juvenile justice system. Instead, the influence of juvenile justice on the future behaviour of young offenders should be seen as just one element in the evaluation of a system that will always struggle to meet a complex range of partly conflicting objectives.

  • Gender and Youth Offending (with Lesley McAra). Centre for Law and Society, 2004, ESYTC Report no. 2. Available at http://www.law.ed.ac.uk/cls/esytc/findings/digest2.pdf

  • Parenting and Delinquency at ages 12 to 15. Centre for Law and Society, 2004, ESYTC Report no. 3. Available at http://www.law.ed.ac.uk/cls/esytc/findings/digest3.pdf

  • Gang Membership and Teenage Offending. Centre for Law and Society, 2004, ESYTC Report no. 8 (with Paul Bradshaw). Available at http://www.law.ed.ac.uk/cls/esytc/findings/digest8.pdf