Prof John Pitts

Professor of Socio-Legal Studies and Director of the Vauxhall Centre for the Study of Crime



John Pitts

John Pitts is Vauxhall Professor of Socio-legal Studies at the University of Bedfordshire, Visiting Professor of Criminology at the Universities of Suffolk and Kent and Visiting Professor of Youth Justice at the University of Politics and Law, Shanghai. He has worked in publishing and as a school teacher; a street and club-based youth worker; a group worker in a Young Offender Institution and as a consultant on youth crime and youth justice to the police and youth justice and legal professionals in the UK, mainland Europe, the Russian Federation and China.

He has written extensively about youth justice in England and Wales, most notably in The New Politics of Youth Crime (Macmillan, 2001) and in the past ten years he has undertaken studies of violent youth gangs and drug markets in London, Manchester and West Yorkshire, some of the findings of which are recounted in Reluctant Gangsters (Routledge, 2008).

Since 2007 he has acted as an adviser on violent youth gangs to local authorities and police forces. He was a consultant to the Centre for Social Justice inquiry into violent youth gangs in the UK, published as Dying to Belong (2009) and a participant in the Prime Minister's Gang Summit in October 2011. He was deputy chair of the London Gangs Forum and was a member of the Children's Commissioner's Inquiry into Child and Adolescent Sexual Exploitation. Since 2013 he has been undertaking research on pathways into, and multi-agency responses to, organised crime in Greater Manchester.

In July 2011 he was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters for ‘ ... his published work and research, the conspicuous ability and originality of which constitutes a distinguished and sustained achievement which has contributed significantly to the development of youth justice in England and Wales.’


  • D. Litt. University of Bedfordshire, 2011
  • Ph.D. Middlesex University, 1988
  • MA Deviance & Social Policy (with Distinction) Middlesex University, 1979
  • Diploma in Youth Work, University of Manchester 1971
  • Diploma in Education. University of Birmingham, 1967

Teaching interests

  • Criminological Theory,
  • Youth Justice,
  • Group Offending, Gangs and Violent Crime
  • Research Methods

Research interests


  • Young people and Violent offending
  • Youth Gangs and Group Offending
  • Organised Crime
  • Pathways into Custody
  • The Resettlement of Incarcerated Children and Young People

The New Politics of Youth Crime - book cover

External Roles

  • Member:Reforming Youth Justice Working Party, Centre for Social Justice, London 2010/2011
  • Member:Howard League Research Advisory Committee 2010-
  • Participant/Rapporteur: The Prime Minister’s International Gangs Summit, The Home Office, 15th Oct, 2011
  • Member: ESRC College of Assessors 2011-
  • Member:  Panel of the Children’s Commissioner’s Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation, Victimisation and Abuse 2011/2012
  • Deputy Chair:The London Gangs Forum 2010/2013
  • Chair: International Juvenile Justice Observatory, Bienniale Conference (2012), Scientific Committee 2011/2012
  • Member:Expert Advisory Group, Home Office Youth Gang and Violent Youth Crime Initiative 2011/2012
  • Member:London Borough of Lambeth Gang Strategy Steering Group 2012/14
  • Honorary Member: Management Committee, Knights Youth Club, Lambeth 2014-

Recent Relevant Publications


  • Anne-Marie Day, Tim Bateman, John Pitts (2020) Surviving incarceration: the pathways of looked after and non-looked after children into, through and out of custody - executive summary [PDF] - Full report [PDF] Nuffield Foundation
  • Reluctant Gangsters: The Changing Face of Youth Crime, Willan Publications (2008)Reluctant Gangsters book cover
  • Neither War Nor Peace, Safer Communities, Vol.8. Issue 2, April (2009)
  • Youth Gangs, Ethnicity and the Politics of Estrangement Youth and Policy, No. 102, Spring (2009)
  • Mercenary Territory: Are Youth Gangs Really a Problem?, Goldson B. (ed.) Youth in Crisis? London, Routledge (2011)
  • Reluctant Criminologists: Criminology, Ideology and the Violent Youth Gang, Youth & Policy, Autumn(2012)
  • Crime and Victimisation amongst Somali Young People in Moss Side,  Greater Manchester Police (2012)
  • The Third Time as Farce: Whatever Happened to the Penal State?, Lea J. & Squires P. (eds.) Criminalisation and Advanced Marginality, Bristol, Policy Press (2012)
  • A Process Evaluation of the Greater Manchester Police Operation Challenger,  Greater Manchester Police, (2013)
  • Drifting Into Trouble: Sexual Exploitation and Gang Affiliation, Melrose M. & Pearce J. (eds.) Child Sexual Exploitation, Basingstoke, MacMillan (2013)
  • Who Dunnit? Gangs, Joint Enterprise, Bad Character and Duress, Youth & Policy, 113 (2014)
  • Gang Involved Young People: Custody and Beyond, London, Nacro/Beyond Youth Custody (2016)
  • Critical Realism and Gang Violence, Matthews R. (ed.) What is to be Done About Crime & Violence, Basingstoke, Macmillan (2016)
  • Preventing Organised Crime (2017) - PDF 554.3 KB
  • Collaborative Working in Resettlement, London, Nacro/Beyond Youth Custody (with Olaiten T.) (forthcoming)

Editorial board membership

  • Safer Communities (Assoc. editor)
  • Youth and Policy (Assoc. editor)
  • Juvenile Justice Worldwide (UNESCO)

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