College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Academic wins prize for research impact

A research project that examined stop and search practices in Scotland and directly led to new laws, has won a major prize.

Dr Kath Murray has been announced as the winner for Outstanding Early Career Impact at the 2016 Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Celebrating Impact Prize in partnership with SAGE Publishing.

Economic and Social Research Council (external link)

Celebrating Impact Prize (external link)

Her doctoral research project on how stop and search is used in Scotland – a practice which allowed police to search without suspicion or legal authority – has led to new legislation and major changes in policy.

I'm delighted and honoured to recieve the ESRC Early Career impact prize. The pace of legal reform around stop and search in Scotland has been remarkable, and I'd like to thank all those who got behind the issues raised by the research. My particular thanks go to Professor Susan McVie, the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research, and to my family, for their brilliant and invaluable support.

Dr Kath Murray

Stop and search

Dr Murray’s research showed that people in Scotland were four times more likely to be searched than those living in England and hundreds of children – some as young as six – had been searched.

The practices disproportionately targeted young teenage boys and were undertaken without scrutiny or accountability.

The figures showed that in 2010 police officers recorded more searches on 16-year-olds in Glasgow than the number of 16-year-olds living in the city.


After her findings were made public, the Scottish Government appointed an Independent Advisory Group to review the situation in April 2015.

This led to the Scottish Parliament passing the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act which abolished non-statutory stop and search, established a statutory Code of Practice, and introduced mechanisms to ensure stop and search is accountable and open to scrutiny.

Between August 2013 and December 2015 there has been a 93 per cent drop in the recorded number of stop searches and seizures.

The judging panel for the ESRC Celebrating Impact Prize unanimously agreed that Dr Murray’s work had successfully achieved a significant impact on society.

For a doctoral project to have initiated a major public debate on an aspect of police practice and led directly to a change in legislation is unprecedented in my experience.

Professor Richard SparksHead of the University of Edinburgh Law School