London police strip-searched hundreds of children: new data

London Mayor Sadiq Khan says he is ‘extremely concerned’ by police strip searches of children

Police under fire in London strip searched more than 600 children over a two-year period, most of them black boys, according to new data released on Monday.

England’s Children’s Commissioner, Rachel de Souza, said she was “deeply shocked” by the figures after obtaining them from the Metropolitan Police.

De Souza’s request came after Britain’s biggest police force was forced to apologize in March over the ‘Child Q’ case, which sparked a gross misconduct investigation into four officers.

The 15-year-old black schoolgirl was strip searched by police officers in 2020 after being wrongly suspected of carrying cannabis, despite knowing she was on her period.

She was searched without the presence of a “suitable adult”, and no adult was present in 23% of the cases discovered by de Souza.

A total of 650 minors aged between 10 and 17 were strip searched by Met officers between 2018 and 2020, she found.

Over 95% were boys and 58% of the 650 were described by the officer as black.

De Souza said she was “extremely concerned” about the ethnic imbalance and said Child Q could be part of a “systemic issue around child protection” at the Met.

The figures have risen sharply year on year, she said, and show that significant numbers of children “are subjected to this intrusive and traumatic practice each year”.

The London force has been rocked in recent years by a succession of incidents involving officers, including last year when a member of the diplomatic protection squad was jailed for the kidnapping, rape and murder of Sarah Everard.

A crisis of public confidence in the police saw Cressida Dick resign as Met Commissioner in February.

In response to de Souza’s findings, the Met said it had already put changes in place “to ensure children subjected to intrusive searches are treated appropriately and respectfully.”

Some children may themselves be a “vulnerable victim of exploitation” by gangsters and drug traffickers, he conceded.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has stepped up his criticism of the Met after criticizing the force over the Child Q case and other incidents.

It was “deeply concerning” that so many body searches were taking place without the presence of an adult, a spokesman for Khan said.

“And there remain serious broader issues around the disproportionality and use of stop and search of young black boys,” the spokesperson said.

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