A damning report is expected to claim children as young as eight have been stopped and strip-searched by police. Analysis from the children’s commissioner for England, Dame Rachel de Souza, found almost 3,000 youths in the last four years had been subject to the practice.
Of those, nearly a quarter were aged between ten and 15 years old, with a small amount younger than 10 and with the youngest just eight years old, the Sunday Times reports.
Worryingly the report found black children were six times more likely to be strip-searched when compared to national figures, with black boys accounting for more than a third of all cases.
According to the newspaper in more than half of these cases no further prosecution action was taken.
Speaking to the Sunday Times ahead of the publication of her report on Monday, Dame de Souza said the police needed to “act together” on the findings which have “kept her awake at night”.
She told the paper: “The police really need to get their act together on this. We’ve had a report on the Met but the data that I’m going to share tomorrow I think is almost more shocking.
“It’s about police chiefs themselves, it’s about the Home Office that sets the parameters and it’s about the training of staff because what I have been hearing about some of the practices that are being used is keeping me awake at night.
“The shocking thing about the strip-searching of children is that we didn’t know. But we have now spoken to a lot of case studies about the problem … I can’t tell you how many children have called us up and parents who have brought this up.”
Dame de Souza’s report will again re-focus public scrutiny on the beleaguered Metropolitan Police which is still reeling from multiple scandals at present. One of those is the case of Child Q, a 15-year-old black girl who it emerged was strip-searched when she was on her period after officers wrongly suspected her of carrying cannabis in East London in 2020.
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Female officers made the teenager remove her sanitary towel. Last year it was reported the victim said she would sue her school and the Met after report found racism was a “likely” factor in the search.
Dame de Souza’s findings are expected to shine a light on failures by the Met and police to comply with codes of practice for child searches. It’s understood it will say more than half, 52 percent, were carried out without an appropriate adult confirmed as being present.
Stop and search powers allow police with “reasonable grounds” to investigate an individual’s person if they are suspected of carrying for example, a weapon, drugs or stolen goods.
Guidelines state searches on minors must be carried out as quickly as possible, with dignity, sensitivity and regard for vulnerability. Officers are also told to minimise embarrassment by not having the child remove all their clothes all at once.
In all Dame de Souza’s report says 2,847 children have been strip-searched using stop and search powers by the police in the last four years.
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