OPINION - Evening Standard Comment: With children as young as 10 subjected to strip searches by police, we need proper safeguards

·2-min read

Being asked to remove anything more than a jacket is considered to be a strip search. But the Standard can today reveal that hundreds of children — some between the ages of 10 and 12 — have undergone full strip searches by the Metropolitan Police, where intimate parts can be exposed.

This issue has come to broader public attention in recent weeks following the shocking case of Child Q, a 15-year-old Black girl who was removed from an exam when wrongly suspected of possessing cannabis and strip-searched while on her period by two police officers, without an appropriate adult present. The school’s headteacher resigned yesterday citing “health issues”.

Following the case, the Met has rightly said it is reviewing its policy regarding under-18s and is introducing a pilot scheme across Hackney and Tower Hamlets which requires an inspector to give approval before a strip search can take place. But there is also a racial element at play.

The figures show that last year police carried out 4,286 strip searches across all age groups, with Black people making up a third of those. Meanwhile, the official investigation into Child Q found that racism was likely to have been an “influencing factor” in the officers’ actions, two of whom have since been removed from frontline duties.

There is a teen killing epidemic in our city. Last year broke an unwanted record as 30 teenagers were murdered. Strip searches can play an important role if police suspect someone is carrying a weapon or is being used to traffick drugs.

However, they must be appropriate, evidence-led and — particularly with very young children — have vital safeguards in place. In such a case, the threshold for subjecting them to the upsetting experience would have to be very high for it to be justifiable at all.

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