New University of Edinburgh research recommends under-25s should not be sent to jail because their brains are too immature


People under the age of 25 should not be imprisoned because their brains are too immature, the leading author on new research has told EN4 News.

Professor Matthias Schwannauer, who is a professor of clinical psychology at the University of Edinburgh, said in his report, published today, that a custodial sentence heightens the risk for brain damage and makes adolescents less likely to rehabilitate than adults are.

The Scottish Sentencing Council (SSC) has announced a 12-week public consultation into whether under-25s should be imprisoned.

The consultation comes after research conducted by the University of Edinburgh on behalf of the SSC found that there were severe cognitive complications for incarcerating people under the age of 25.

The report found that the adult brain reaches maturity between 25-30 years old, which means it is not able to handle the stressful environment of prison.

“It’s really important for the courts to understand the developmental needs of young people… we need supportive programmes that are community-based,” Schwannauer told EN4 News.

“Putting people in prisons where there is a spike of drug use and self-harm is basically just putting further risk on the individual and their communities.

“I really hope Scotland can path the way to an alternative way in order to reduce future risk and societal cost.”

Support for this review and consultation has been backed by The Centre for Youth and Criminal Justice (CYCJ).

Spokeswoman Charlotte Morris said today that a CYCJ report found that 37% of youngsters are tried in adult court and don’t understand the process.

But Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser argued that there is a lot more work needed before alternatives to prison are considered.

He told EN4 News: “It’s difficult to see how reducing the number of people going to prison for committing serious offences is going to help protect the public or provide an effective deterrent from people in this age group committing very serious crime.”

“I think a lot more work needs to be done before we use community disposals as an alternative to prison for people in this age group,” Fraser concluded.

The SSC said in a statement: “The council’s hope and expectation is that it will bring long-term social and economic benefits,” an SSC statement read, “and by promoting reduced reoffending through greater emphasis on rehabilitation and increased use of the children’s hearings system.”

Stephen Robinson trial: Partner of Motherwell boss says she is ‘not a victim’

The partner of Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson has told court that she is “not a victim” after he was accused of assaulting her.

Robinson, 45, is on trial at Edinburgh Sherriff Court after being accused of assaulting Robyn Lauchlin on December 13 last year.

The pair were returning from a day spent in the capital before Robinson was accused of grabbing, pulling and shoving Lauchlin before pinning her against a fence.

Lauchlin said that she has sent six different emails, detailing her account of what happened during the alleged assault.

In response to her efforts, during which she was not allowed contact with Robinson, she received a response from victim support.

“I am not a victim; I find it insulting,” she said. “I find it very difficult why my voice isn’t being heard.

“I have never been more disappointed in the law. There has been no thought for the innocent in this.

“I’ve begged for a response. It is extremely concerning I have not been asked for the facts.”

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Robinson has also been accused of behaving in an aggressive manner by shouting, swearing and acting aggressively.

The fourth witness David McIlduff, 25, said: “I heard a good deal of shouting. He seemed to have her pinned against the wall. His hands were around her.”

“I’m sure I heard her shout ‘get away from me’ towards him. The gentleman was raging.

“It was aggressive enough that the woman tried to move away. The gentleman used enough force to keep her against the fence.”

The trial before Sheriff John Cook will resume next week.

Scottish SPCA launch urgent appeal to find homes for eight Edinburgh snakes

A Scottish animal welfare charity has launched an appeal to find homes for eight snakes residing in Edinburgh.

Mike Flynn, chief superintendent of the Scottish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), said that the eight rescue snakes, which are currently in the care of the Edinburgh Animal Rescue and Rehoming Centre, would require specialist care.

He warned that the reptiles’ long lifespan makes them a lifelong commitment and any prospective owners must have the correct setup.

“If the snakes become ill, then they will need to be seen by a vet specialising in exotic animals,” Flynn said. “Of course, our staff are always happy to give advice and support to new owners, especially if it’s their first time owning a reptile.”

The team at Scottish SPCA also note that regular human interaction is key to these snakes making great pets.

The eight snakes, named Stu, Steve, Scout, Smith, Grace, Scorch, Coto and Clarence, are all corn snakes, a species of rat snake. Originally from North America, corn snakes are commonly kept as pets due to their docile nature and moderate size.

Clarence the snake (Credit: SPCA)

Many people often overlook snakes as pets, which is why many need a home, explains Diane Aitcheson, manager of their current residence.

“The majority of people coming to the centre are generally looking for a more traditional furry companion, not necessarily a snake,” Aitcheson told EN4 News.

“Poor Clarence has spent almost 1,300 days in our care. He’s feisty and a fussy eater, so he’s looking for an experienced owner who can monitor his weight.”

Many of the snakes found at the centre have been injured and therefore require great care and careful handling by any future owners.

(Credit: EN4 News)

“Scorch was found as a stray with an injury which sadly resulted in him having the tip of his tail amputated,” Aitcheson went on to say. “This hasn’t held him back, and he’s incredibly friendly, happily slithering in and out of your fingers before resting over your arm.”

“All of these snakes could make brilliant companions for the right owner. We always say rescue pets make great pets and these corn snakes are no exception,” she concluded.

For more information on rehoming any of the snakes, contact the Scottish SPCA’s centre in Edinburgh on 03000 999 999.


Get ready to ‘LOVE Gorgie Farm’ – Beloved family attraction set to reopen this weekend

Gorgie City Farm is set to reopen its doors tomorrow under the new name LOVE Gorgie Farm.

Improvements have already been completed to the beloved family attraction, after the farm was bought over by Scottish mental health charity LOVE Learning in January 2020.

This was following the farm announcing its liquidation in November 2019.

Speaking exclusively to EN4 News, Lorna Murphy, LOVE Learning’s Project Manager of Education services in East Lothian and Edinburgh City, explained what visitors can expect to see upon Gorgie Farm’s reopening.

“We’re making improvements to tie in with our ethos of inclusion. We are completing the disabled access to make it accessible for everyone,” Murphy said.

He plans to have a rotation of the animals on display to allow them to retire at an older age with the security of having younger creatures to bring in and grow up on the farm.

LOVE Learning has also proposed introducing animal and forest therapy as an educational package for children and those suffering from anxiety and mental health issues.

“People gain a lot of nurture and comfort from animals and by caring for something else – their mind can be taken off of personal issues,” Murphy continued.

Gorgie Farm will reopen to the public this weekend (Credit: EN4 News)

The reopening celebrations are due to take place tomorrow afternoon.

Tickets sold out rapidly and some of those in attendance include Hibs and Hearts footballers, rugby players and politicians.

Edinburgh Charity, Dads Rock, have been asked to assist LOVE Learning in reopening Gorgie Farm to the public tomorrow.

Thomas Lynch, the service manager of Dads Rock, told EN4 News of how they were frequent visitors to Gorgie Farm.

“Like most people in Edinburgh, we were devastated when we heard the farm was closing; the farm has meant so much too so many people over the years,” Lynch said.

In terms of what those attending the reopening celebrations can expect, Lynch says there is a lot to look forward to.

“We’ve got magicians, entertainers, face painting, a tombola, raffles, there’s a singer coming and we’ve got a piper. And that’s not even the half of it!”

It was also announced earlier this week that the money raised in a public fundraiser to ‘Save Gorgie Farm’ would be given to LOVE Learning upon the farm’s reopening.

Over £100,000 was raised in an attempt to prevent Gorgie Farm from closing indefinitely back in November 2019.

There was some deliberation over whether or not the money should be given to LOVE Learning, but on Thursday morning, it was announced that the charity would receive the entire sum to invest into Gorgie Farm’s upkeep and renovation.

Among those who campaigned to save Gorgie Farm, the Scottish Greens were very vocal in their desire to protect the attraction.

Alison Johnstone, Green MSP for Lothian, fought particularly hard in defence of the farm. Johnstone spoke to EN4 News about her delight at Gorgie Farm’s reopening.

“It is fantastic to see such a widely valued, much-loved community asset re-open, and so soon after it closed,” Johnstone added.

“This is a testament to the special place the farm has in the community and the hard work of everyone involved.”

Gorgie Farm will reopen tomorrow and remain open seven days a week with entry free of charge.

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