• Thursday, September 29, 2022

HEADLINE STORY

58 per cent of 650 children strip-searched by Met Police between 2018 and 2020 are black

A quarter of strip-searched children are aged 15 years or below: Data

Representative image (iStock)

By: Chandrashekar Bhat

Metropolitan Police strip-searched 650 children between 2018 and 2020, according to new data which also revealed the ethnic disproportionality of the action.

The data, analysed by the Children’s Commissioner for England, Dame Rachel de Souza, showed that almost three out of five (58 per cent) children subjected to strip searches during the period were black.

The findings showed that a quarter of the children strip-searched during the period were aged 15 years or below – some of them as young as 10 years.

“Half of all strip searches of children resulted in no further action taken, which calls into question whether these intrusive and traumatising searches were necessary at all,” the commissioner said.

No appropriate adult – parent, social worker, or volunteer – was present during 23 per cent of all occasions when the Met Police strip-searched children.

The number of strip searches showed an increasing trend during the period: 18 per cent of all searches were carried out in 2018, 36 per cent in 2019 and 46 per cent in 2020. Boys accounted for 95 per cent of such cases.

The investigation was conducted after the strip-search of a teenage London schoolgirl – identified as Child Q – on the misplaced suspicion that she was carrying cannabis had sparked protests.

“I am not reassured that what happened to Child Q was an isolated issue, though it was certainly rare,” Dame de Souza said, adding “I believe it indicates more systemic problems around child protection”.

The commissioner said she was not convinced that the Met Police was considering children’s welfare and wellbeing consistently.

The intrusive strip search power which could be “traumatic” for children should be exercised with “utmost care and responsibility”, accompanied by a robust and transparent system of scrutiny to protect and safeguard vulnerable children, she said.

However, the Met Police said the force was progressing to ensure children subjected to intrusive searches were dealt with “appropriately and respectfully”.

“We recognise the significant impact such searches can have”, a spokesperson for the force told the Guardian.

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