More than 3,000 children subject to police strip-searches in England and Wales

More than 3,000 children were strip-searched by police in a year, and more than a third were black, figures show.

There were 65,336 strip-searches carried out by 28 of 43 forces in England and Wales in the year to March, of which 5% (3,133) were carried out on 10 to 17-year-olds, according to data published for the first time on Thursday.

The “most notable differences” between adult and child strip-searches were that “higher proportions” of children were black or from a black British background (35%), compared with adults (19%), the Home Office report said.

“Less than half (43%) of all children strip-searched were of a white ethnic background, compared with 65% of adults strip-searched,” it added.

Data was not provided by Avon and Somerset, Dorset, Durham, Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, North Wales, Northamptonshire, South Yorkshire, Staffordshire, Surrey, Sussex, Thames Valley or Warwickshire forces.

The release follows the Child Q scandal earlier this year, in which a 15-year-old schoolgirl was strip-searched by police while on her period, after being wrongly suspected of carrying cannabis at school.

The search, by female Metropolitan Police officers, took place in 2020 without another adult present and in the knowledge that she was menstruating, a safeguarding report found.

A review conducted by City & Hackney Safeguarding Children Partnership (CHSCP) concluded the strip-search should never have happened, was unjustified, and racism “was likely to have been an influencing factor”.

Four Metropolitan Police officers are being investigated for gross misconduct by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) in connection with the incident.

Scotland Yard has apologised and said it “should never have happened”.

The law firm Bhatt Murphy said in March that the teenager was taking civil action against the Met and her school to obtain “cast-iron commitments to ensure this never happens again to any other child”.

Since then, the IOPC has confirmed it is investigating four further strip-searches of children between early 2020 and 2022, and is considering whether to look into three more.

Figures later obtained from Scotland Yard by the Children’s Commissioner showed 600 children underwent “intrusive and traumatising” strip-searches by the Metropolitan Police over a two-year period, with black boys disproportionately targeted.

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