Met Police strip-searched 650 children aged ten to 17 in three years… and no ‘appropriate adult’ was present in nearly a QUARTER of cases, watchdog reveals

  • Figures showed 95 per cent of strip-searches were carried out against boys 
  • In 23 per cent of cases no ‘appropriate adult’ was present, contrary to guidelines
  • No further action was taken in 53 per cent of all strip-searches of children

The Metropolitan Police strip-searched 650 children in three years – with six in ten of them black boys – a watchdog has revealed.

The Children’s Commissioner published data from Scotland Yard showing the youngsters aged ten to 17 were strip-searched from 2018 to 2020.

In 23 per cent of cases there was no ‘appropriate adult’ – such as a parent or social worker – present, contrary to guidelines. And no further action was taken in 53 per cent of all strip-searches of children.

A report published today by Children’s Commissioner for England Dame Rachel de Souza says: ‘We question whether this low level of successful searches indicates that this intrusive practice is justified or necessary in all cases.’

In 23 per cent of cases there was no ‘appropriate adult’ – such as a parent or social worker – present, contrary to guidelines. And no further action was taken in 53 per cent of all strip-searches of children

The figures showed 95 per cent of strip-searches were carried out against boys, with 58 per cent of them black – 20 per cent were white, 16 per cent Asian, and the remainder given as ‘other’ or unrecorded.

A series of cases emerged earlier this year of the Met strip-searching girls who were menstruating at the time, including a 15-year-old known as ‘Child Q’.

Dame Rachel said: ‘I am deeply shocked. I am also extremely concerned by the ethnic disproportionality shown in these figures, particularly given that ethnicity was determined to be such a key factor in the Child Q case. I am not reassured that what happened to Child Q was an isolated issue, but instead believe it may be a more systemic problem around child protection.

‘I remain unconvinced that the Metropolitan Police is consistently considering children’s welfare and wellbeing.’

Dame Rachel pledged to raise her concerns with police and the Home Office.

The figures showed 95 per cent of strip-searches were carried out against boys, with 58 per cent of them black – 20 per cent were white, 16 per cent Asian, and the remainder given as ‘other’ or unrecorded. Scotland Yard HQ is seen above

The figures showed 95 per cent of strip-searches were carried out against boys, with 58 per cent of them black – 20 per cent were white, 16 per cent Asian, and the remainder given as ‘other’ or unrecorded. Scotland Yard HQ is seen above

Many strip-searches are carried out when officers suspect children are carrying drugs. But Iryna Pona, of the Children’s Society, said she was ‘horrified’ by the number of youngsters subjected to the ‘intrusive and traumatic’ procedure.

She added: ‘Children are being completely failed if even basic safeguards are not in place. We often support children who have been groomed and coerced into crimes like county lines drug dealing, only to be treated as adults who have made a wilful decision rather than victims of exploitation.’

A Scotland Yard spokesman said the Met is ‘progressing at pace work to ensure children subject to intrusive searches are dealt with appropriately and respectfully’.

He added: ‘We have already made changes and continue to work hard to balance the policing need for this type of search with the considerable impact it can have on young people.

‘We have ensured our officers and staff have a refreshed understanding of the policy for conducting a “further search”, particularly around the requirement for an appropriate adult to be present. More widely, we have reviewed the policy for “further searches” for those aged under 18.

‘This is to assure ourselves the policy is appropriate and also that it recognises the fact a child in these circumstances may well be a vulnerable victim of exploitation by others involved in gangs, county lines and drug dealing.’

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