Early and effective intervention (EEI) in Scottish youth justice, benevolent principles and unintended consequences

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Scotland has a distinctive youth justice system founded on the welfare ethos of Kilbrandon and the unique Children's Hearing System. The most recent addition to the youth justice landscape is the Whole System Approach and of primary concern to this research, Early and Effective Intervention (EEI). EEI a multiagency decision making process which takes a holistic, child-centred approach to offending by children and young people; views offending as a potential wellbeing concern and aims to act in a timely, effective and proportionate way. While its use in practice has increased, scrutiny of the process is scarce.;Applying a modified grounded theory methodology, this research examines how and why decisions are made at EEI and its potential impact, exploring practice in three case study locations. The research makes an original contribution to knowledge as it provides an expose of EEI decision making in practice, which then provides the opportunity to consider implications which arise from that practice.;The findings reveal inherent complexities and tensions between the intentions and practice of EEI on the ground. Applying social control theory, the potential impact of these tensions are considered in relation to outcomes for young people, practitioners and the wider youth justice system. The researcher argues that EEI represents an extension of the formal youth justice system, where the stated benevolent intentions on the part of practitioners through diversion and addressing wellbeing are met; but that net-widening, up-tariffing and boundary blurring to the detriment of rights are present and unavoidable.;The system may be producing the outcomes which it aimed to avoid, particularly for groups already considered 'the usual suspects'. The research concludes that the inherent tensions in EEI, representative of wider youth justice system tensions, must be acknowledged by actors at various levels of the Scottish Youth justice system; scrutiny applied to both practice and underlying concepts; and a consideration of a truly diversionary, rights-based and inclusive system required for those involved in offending or who come into contact with the formal youth justice system.
Date of Award6 Sept 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SponsorsUniversity of Strathclyde
SupervisorMonica Barry (Supervisor) & Claire Lightowler (Supervisor)

Cite this