Procedural justice, compliance with the law and police stop-and-search: A study of young people in England and Scotland

Kath Murray (Lead Author), Susan McVie, Diego Farren, Lauren Herlitz, Mike Hough, Paul Norris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The policing of young people, especially through stop-and-search, has been rigorously debated in the context of rising violence in the UK. While concepts based on procedural justice theory and perceptions of police fairness are directly relevant to these debates, these have rarely been tested on young people, nor have they taken account of the impact of stop-and-search. This paper examines young people’s experiences of stop-and-search in two Scottish and two English cities, and tests the relationship between these experiences, their trust in the police, their perceptions of police legitimacy and their compliance with the law. The study finds that Scottish adolescents, who experienced higher volume stop-and-search, had more negative attitudes to the police and perceived them to be less procedurally fair than English adolescents. Structural equation modelling confirms that principles of procedural justice theory do apply to young people in this UK sample. However, our findings suggest that stop-and-search may damage trust in the police and perceptions of police legitimacy, regardless of the volume of police stop-and-search, and this may result in increased offending behaviour. With ongoing calls to increase the use of stop-and-search in response to recent increases in knife crime in England, we argue that its use needs to be carefully balanced against the, as yet poorly evidenced, benefits of the use of the tactic.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPolicing and Society
Early online date12 Jan 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Jan 2020


  • ISRD
  • stop and search
  • procedural justice theory
  • legitimacy
  • compliance
  • young people
  • Scotland
  • England


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