Children as young as eight strip-searched by police, report finds

File photo of a police officer  (PA Archive)
File photo of a police officer (PA Archive)

Children as young as eight are being stopped and strip-searched by police, according to shocking new figures.

A total of 2,847 children have been stopped and strip-searched in the past four years in England and Wales, according to a new analysis by  children’s commissioner Dame Rachel de Souza.

Of those, nearly a quarter were aged between ten and fifteen, with black children more likely to be targeted.

Dame Rachel said black children were six times more likely to be strip-searched by police compared to the national population.

Speaking to the Sunday Times ahead of the publication of her report on Monday, she said the findings were “shocking” and had kept her awake at night.

The findings come just after the publication of the damning Casey report into the Metropolitan Police, which labelled the force institutionally racist, sexist and homophobic.

Last year, there was an outcry over the case of Child Q, a black 15-year-old who was strip-searched after she was wrongly accused of carrying cannabis in east London.

She was removed from an exam hall and asked to remove a sanitary towel during the search by female officers in 2020.

Dame Rachel’s report is said to find that the practice is not limited to the Met.

She told the Sunday Times: “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.”

She added: “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.”

Under guidelines, strip-searches must be conducted as quickly as possible and children should not be asked to remove all clothing at once.

An appropriate adult must be present and no more than two people can be in the room at the same time.

But De Souza’s report will claim this is being flouted, with some children searched in schools, takeaways and even in an amusement park.

The report is also expected to show that in a small number of cases, the searches were conducted with at least one officer of the opposite gender to the child present, in contravention of guidelines.

Dame Louise Casey’s report into the Met released this week said that strip-searches conducted by the force, the largest in the country, was an example of “over-policing and disproportionate use of powers against certain communities”.