Figures available to the Children’s Commissioner show that the number of strip searches of children – targeting black boys – has increased
Over a two-year period, over 600 children were subjected to “intrusive and traumatising” strip searches by the Metropolitan Police.
Figures show black boys were disproportionately assaulted.
What does the data show?
Data obtained by Children’s Commissioner Dame Rachel de Souza showed that between 2018 and 2020, about 650 children between the ages of 10 and 17 were strip searched by Met police officers.
The figures show that 95% of those stopped were boys and 58% were described by the officer as black.
In almost a quarter (23%) of the cases, strip searches took place without confirming the presence of an “eligible adult”.
The report follows the Child-Q scandal
Dame Rachel requested the figures after the Child-Q scandal erupted in March, in which a 15-year-old schoolgirl was strip-searched by police during her period after she was falsely suspected of inducing cannabis at school to have yourself.
The search by female Metropolitan Police officers took place in 202. The girl was forced to expose her private parts and remove her sanitary napkin during her period.
This search was conducted with no other adults present.
A review conducted by City & Hackney Safeguarding Children Partnership (CHSCP) concluded the strip search should never have taken place, was unwarranted and racism “likely was a contributing factor”.
Four Metropolitan Police officers are being investigated by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) for gross misconduct in connection with the incident.
Scotland Yard has apologized, saying it “should never have happened”.
Since then, the IOPC has confirmed that it will investigate four more strip searches of children between early 2020 and 2022 and is considering investigating three more.
How have strip search numbers changed over the years?
Figures from the Children’s Ombudsman show that the number of strip searches of children has increased each year, with 18% being carried out in 2018, 36% in 2019 and 46% in 2020.
Two-thirds of these (70%) were black boys.
Overall, 53% of all strip searches resulted in no further action, suggesting, according to the Children’s Ombudsman, that they “may not be justified or necessary in all cases”.
What did Dame Rachel de Souza say?
In her reportDame Rachel said: “Today (8 August 2022) I am releasing Metropolitan Police data which I have requested using my powers under the Children and Families Act 2014.
“Half of all strip searches of children resulted in no further action, raising questions as to whether these intrusive and traumatizing searches were even necessary.
“Between 2018 and 2020, 650 children were strip searched – at a rate of nearly one a day in 2020.
“In some cases, these were children as young as 10 years old – a quarter of the children searched were 15 years old or younger.”
Dame Rachel spoke to ITV’s Good Morning Britain about her concerns about dealing with the police. She said: “More worryingly, 25%, a quarter, of them did not have a suitable adult there. That means no parent, no caregiver, no social worker, they were taken, the children are stopped and searched, not arrested, either taken to the police or taken home, one in five we don’t even know where they were taken and are the subject of an intimate search .
“That 25% without a suitable adult is really worrying. It’s a very traumatic experience and it has to stop. We need a suitable adult there.”
She is also “extremely concerned” at the ethnic disproportion they reveal, with ethnicity identified as a key factor in Child Q’s ordeal.
She said: “I am not reassured that what happened with Child Q was an isolated issue but believe it could be a particularly worrying example of a more systemic child protection issue within the Metropolitan Police.
“I remain unconvinced that the Metropolitan Police consistently consider the welfare and welfare of children.”
The data was sent to Baroness Louise Casey, who is conducting a standards review at the Met.
The Children’s Commissioner team will request comparable data from all police forces across England.
How did the Met react?
A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: “The Metropolitan Police are moving forward swiftly to ensure that children who are subjected to intrusive searches are treated appropriately and with respect. We recognize the significant impact such searches can have.
“We have already made changes and continue to work hard to balance the police need for this type of search with the significant impact it can have on young people.
“We have ensured that our officers and staff have a refreshed understanding of the guidelines for conducting a ‘further search’, particularly in relation to the requirement that an appropriate adult be present.
“We have also given officials advice on how to deal with schools, to ensure children are treated like children and considered protecting those under the age of 18.
“More broadly, we reviewed the ‘further search’ policy for persons under 18 years of age. This is to reassure us that the policy is appropriate and also recognizes that a child in these circumstances may well be a vulnerable victim of exploitation by others involved in gangs, county lines and drug trafficking.”
Dame Rachel described the changes made by the Met as a “good start” and said many changes will be needed to keep children safe.