A new damning report has found that police have stopped more than 2,800 children over the past four years and have used “one of the most intrusive powers” to “strip search” children as young as eight.
Children’s Commissioner Dame Rachel de Souza found by using data of police forces across England and Wales that between 2018 and mid-2022 that a total of 2,847 strip searches happened of children aged between eight and 17-years-old.
The child Q scandal came to light in March 2022 where a 15-year-old black school girl was “strip searched” by police with no other adult present whilst she was on her period.
She was wrongly strip searched after police believed the 15-year-old child was carrying cannabis at school, no drugs were found and her parents were not told.
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A safeguarding report found that racism was the “likely” cause when the police strip searched the child.
The Met Police strip searched 650 children aged between 10 and 17 between 2018 and 2022, and 58% were black.
Dame Rachel told the Sunday Times the findings had “kept her awake at night” and police chiefs have been told to only search children in a “life or death” situation.
Dame Rachel told the newspaper, “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.
“My hope was that Child Q was the only child that this would have ever happened to in a school. But the data I am about to release smashed that to smithereens.
“There is this one case where a boy was strip-searched four times and four times his mother picked him up from the police station, but nobody told her, including him, that he had been strip-searched.”
A Home Office spokesperson said, “Strip-search is one of the most intrusive powers available to the police.
“No-one should be subject to strip-search on the basis of race or ethnicity and safeguards exist to prevent this.
“Any child subject to a strip search should be accompanied by an appropriate adult unless there is an urgent risk of serious harm, or where the child specifically requests otherwise and the appropriate adult agrees.
“Such searches must be carried out by an officer of the same sex as the child.
“We take the concerns raised about children’s safeguarding extremely seriously. The Independent Office for Police Conduct is currently investigating several high-profile incidents of strip-search of children and it is vital that we await their findings.”
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