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'Appalling': UK police urged to stop strip-searching children

A police van is parked behind railings in Westminster in London, Tuesday, March 21, 2023.
A police van is parked behind railings in Westminster in London, Tuesday, March 21, 2023. Copyright Kirsty Wigglesworth/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
Copyright Kirsty Wigglesworth/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
By Joshua Askew
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It comes after a "deeply concerning" report found children as young as eight are being strip-searched by officers.

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British police have been urged to stop strip-searching children, after "deeply concerning" and "widespread" failures were highlighted in a new report. 

The report found that kids as young as eight were being subjected to intrusive searches by officers in the back of police vans, in schools and outside fast-food outlets. 

Black children were up to six times more likely to be searched than others, it also revealed. 

Strip searches involve removing or arranging a person's clothing so their breasts, buttocks or genitalia.

Experiencing one during youth can lead to shame, guilt, depression and other lasting emotional scares, according to the Juvenile Law Center

These consequences can last for years. 

“The appalling use of strip searches against children must stop once and for all, they are a serious violation of children’s dignity and human rights," said Ilyas Nagdee of Amnesty International. 

“The massively disproportionate use of strip searches against Black children exposes yet again deep-rooted institutional racism across the Police and the repeated abuses of power detailed in the report reveal the hollowness of commitments to make significant changes," said Nagdee.

“Much more needs to be done to address the institutional inequalities persistent in policing."

The report by Children's Commissioner was prompted by national outrage over the case of a 15-year-old girl who was strip-searched at school while on her period and without a teacher present. 

Known as Child Q, she was left scarred by the incident according to her family, who claimed the search was racially motivated.

The report showed that nearly 3,000 children were searched in England and Wales from 2018 to mid-2022. 

Almost a quarter of the children were aged 10 to 15.  

More than half of these searches (52%) happened without an appropriate adult being present, as required under UK law. Meanwhile, 51% led to no further action, such as an arrest. 

Dame Rachel slammed the "poor quality of record keeping" by the police, with the location of searches not detailed in 45% of cases. 

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One per cent of searches occurred "within public view", including theme parks and takeaways. 

She condemned the findings as "utterly unacceptable" and said strip searches were "intrusive and [had] potentially traumatic power." 

The guidelines around strip searches need to be strengthened urgently, Dame Rachel added. "[They are needed] to robustly challenge a culture that has allowed widespread failures to go unchallenged."

The findings of the report come at an especially fraught time for the Metropolitan police in London, which has been battered by repeated allegations of racism, misogyny and homophobia.

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Last week a report by Louise Casey found the Metropolitan police to be institutionally racist and riddled with discrimination that was “baked in”.

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