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Children as young as eight strip-searched by police as report shows ‘evidence of deeply concerning practice’ | UK News

Children as young as eight are being strip-searched by police officers, according to a report which detailed almost 3,000 searches of minors in England and Wales over four years.

The report also found “ethnic disproportionality”, with black children six times more likely to be strip-searched compared to the national population; white children were half as likely to be searched.

Children’s commissioner for England, Dame Rachel de Souza, demanded the report which showed 2,847 strip-searches of youngsters between eight and 17 took place between 2018 and mid-2022 across England and Wales.

The research showed 52% of strip-searches took place without an appropriate adult present, which is required by law except in situations of “urgency”.

One per cent of the searches occurred “within public view”, with some taking place in police vehicles and schools, a few even in takeaways and amusement parks. However, location was not recorded in 45% of cases – criticised as “poor quality of record-keeping” by Dame Rachel.

The research follows the “traumatic” strip-search of Child Q, a black schoolgirl on her period wrongly suspected by police of carrying cannabis.

The 15-year-old was searched in the school’s medical room by two female officers without teachers present in 2020.

The ordeal, which Scotland Yard said “should never have happened”, left the girl scarred according to family members, who believe the search was racially motivated.

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Police forces ordered to reveal number of ‘intrusive and traumatic’ child strip-searches after Child Q scandal

The incident prompted Dame Rachel to request the report, which showed more than 600 children underwent “intrusive and traumatising” searches over a two-year period, with black boys disproportionately targeted.

Dame Rachel condemned the findings as “utterly unacceptable” and generally that strip-searching children was an “intrusive and potentially traumatic power” which must be subject to “robust safeguards”.

She recommended 17 reforms to the Home Office regarding child strip-searching policy, which include:

  • “Urgency” strip-searches to be banished with constant supervision from an appropriate adult instead. She said only in “the most exceptional situations where there is serious risk to the child’s life or welfare” where this should not be the case.
  • Schools excluded as an appropriate strip-search location, with police stations, medical facilities or at the child’s home address as alternatives.
  • Officers reporting annually on searches, including records of ethnicity, if an appropriate adult was present, the location and if a safeguarding referral was made.

A spokesperson said the Home Office takes safeguarding children extremely seriously.

“Strip-search is one of the most intrusive powers available to the police,” the spokesperson said. “No one should be subject to strip-search on the basis of race or ethnicity and safeguards exist to prevent this.”

650 children – mostly black boys – strip-searched by Met Police in just two years, with some as young as 10 | UK News

Children are being strip-searched by the Metropolitan Police without an appropriate adult present in almost a quarter of cases, with black boys disproportionately targeted, new data shows.

The research, published by the children’s commissioner for England, revealed that officers from the force conducted intrusive searches on 650 young people aged 10 to 17 between 2018 and 2020.

It was commissioned following the case of Child Q – a 15-year-old black girl who was strip-searched at her school in east London without an appropriate adult present. She was wrongly suspected of carrying cannabis.

Children’s Commissioner Dame Rachel de Souza said that the case had been wrongly described as “a one-off”.

She explained: “In a strip search, your most intimate parts are searched. For any child, that’s going to be traumatic and concerning.”

It is a legal requirement for an appropriate adult to be present, except in urgent situations.

Of the 650 who were searched over the three years, 19 in every 20 were boys and 58% were described by the officer as being black.

More on Metropolitan Police

Katrina Ffrench, the founder director of Unjust UK, said she was “incredibly horrified” by the figures.

She added: “The numbers are so high because they demonstrate that there’s an issue within the Metropolitan Police and its treatment of black communities across London.

“Unfortunately, young black children are not afforded innocence and the same rights as their white peers.”

In 2018, more than two-thirds of those strip-searched without anyone else present were black boys.

Solicitor Kevin Donoghue has represented children elsewhere in the country who have been through the experience.

“The fallout for these children is very significant,” he said. “The common features and expressions given to me in handling these cases are one of personal intrusion.

“There is a violation by police officers which is very severely felt and one of personal integrity and their bodily autonomy which has been invaded and it is an event which cannot be undone.

“An apology is not enough. Compensation is not enough.”

In the Child Q case, four officers are being investigated for gross misconduct and a serious case review has been carried out.

The Metropolitan Police said in a statement that it is “progressing at pace” to ensure children subject to intrusive searches are dealt with respectfully.

And new measures have been introduced requiring an inspector to give authority before a search takes place.

It added: “We have ensured our officers and staff have a refreshed understanding of the policy for conducting a ‘further search’, particularly around the requirement for an appropriate adult to be present.

“We have also given officers advice around dealing with schools, ensuring that children are treated as children and considering safeguarding for those under 18.”

In more than half of all child strip searches, no further action was taken.

It’s left the Children’s Commissioner questioning why so many are carried out in the first place.

She’s also concerned about “holes in the data” recorded by the Met Police.

“For about one in five of the strip-searched, they can’t even tell me where they took place, so the data collection needs to be better.”