Hundreds of children subjected to traumatising and degrading strip searches by the Met Police
The children’s commissioner for England has denounced the Metropolitan Police’s records on child protection after new data revealed that 650 children, aged 10 to 17, were strip searched over a two year period between 2018 and 2020 – the shocking majority being found to be innocent of the suspicions against them.
Jodie Beck, policy and campaigns officer at the charity Liberty, said: “All children deserve to live their lives free from harassment, discrimination and abuse. But these appalling figures show that hundreds of children a year are being subject to traumatic and invasive strip searches”.
These figures were requested by the Children’s Commissioner, Dame Rachel de Souza following the case of Child Q, a 15 year old schoolgirl who was strip-searched by female Met officers in 2020 after she was wrongly suspected of carrying cannabis. During the search her intimate body parts were exposed and she was made to take off her sanitary towel. Shockingly, the search was conducted without another adult being present and in the knowledge that she was menstruating at the time.
Code A, paragraph 3.7 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 states that officers must not conduct searches involving exposure of intimate parts of the body simply as a routine extension of a less thorough search, yet the search still went ahead.
A review conducted by City & Hackney Safeguarding Children Partnership (CHSCP) concluded the strip-search never should have happened, was unjustified and racism “was likely to have been an influencing factor”.
What’s also important to remember is that strip searches of this nature amount to child abuse.
Children are taught from a very young age to protect their private areas and to not let strangers touch them or view them. When strip searched, the children are humiliated, embarrassed and degraded and this is not something they can recover from quickly, if at all.
These searches are traumatising for children and will have a long lasting impact on their mental health and everyday life. Since the incident, Child Q has exclaimed that she “can’t go a single day without wanting to scream, shout, cry or just give up”.
The police are a public body, whose aim it is to protect the most vulnerable in our society. It is therefore inexcusable for such a body to inflict abuse of this kind on children.
Victims of strip searches may have a potential claim for compensation against the individual police officers and / or the police force which employed them and they should be encouraged to seek legal advice about action they may be able to take. It is clear that systemic improvements are needed in this area and these can only be achieved by holding those responsible to account for their actions.