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Reforming police practice in Scotland

Dr Kath Murray's doctoral research led to fundamental reform in Scottish policing practice. Murray's analysis of police force data from 2005 to 2010 showed that stop and search rates in Scotland were far higher than in England and Wales, that police practice was disproportionately weighted towards children and young people, and that most searches were undertaken without legal authority, on a non-statutory basis.

Police Scotland uniform

In early 2014 the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research (SCCJR) published the key findings and recommendations, sparking an intense political and public debate. In 2015 HM Inspectorate of Constabulary called for stricter guidance and controls on stop and search, and the UN Human Rights Committee called on the Scottish Government to end unlawful and disproportionate stops and searches.

In late 2015, the Scottish Parliament passed the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act Bill which abolished non-statutory stop and search, and introduced a statutory Code of Practice.

An Independent Advisory Group credited Murray with bringing the matter forward for political debate.

On 22 June 2016, Murray was awarded the prestigious ESRC and SAGE Publishing Early Career Impact Award for her research and public engagement. 

Commenting on Murray's achievements, Professor Richard Sparks said: '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'.

Dr Murray, who is a Research Associate at the University of Edinburgh, continues to engage with the police, press, academics, and other key stakeholders on policing matters, most recently on the devolution of railway policing to Scotland.