The 'worrying' scale of strip searches of minors by London police

The “disturbing” extent of police strip searches of minors of London


The Children's Commissioner for England expressed concern on Monday at the scale of London police's use of strip searches of minors: 650 in two years and the majority on of black teenagers. 

After the turmoil created by the full search inflicted in 2020 on a 15-year-old black teenager, the Children's Commissioner Rachel de Souza, responsible for defending the rights of children, asked Scotland Yard for the statistics.

Between 2018 and 2020, around 650 young people between the ages of 10 and 17 were subjected to this type of strip search, according to figures made public on Monday. 58% of them were described by the police as black, and more than 95% were boys.

In 23% of cases, the search took place without the presence of a third adult , as required by law, except in an emergency.

More than half of these searches resulted in no prosecution, leading the Children's Commissioner to believe that they may not have been “justified or necessary in all cases”.

Rachel de Souza said she was “deeply shocked” by the number of children who are “subjected each year to this intrusive and traumatic practice” and “deeply concerned” by the ethnic disparity brought to light.

In response, London police said they were “making rapid progress in their work” to ensure that “children who are subject to these intrusive practices are treated appropriately and respectfully” and they put forward changes already undertaken.

The question arose in the United Kingdom after the search inflicted in 2020 on a black teenager in the infirmary of her school.

It had been carried out by two police officers, without the presence of a third adult and while she was menstruating. Wrongly suspected of having concealed cannabis, the young girl had been deeply traumatized by this affair, at the origin of several demonstrations.

In March, a report from the child protection services concluded that such a search should “never” have taken place and that “racism (whether deliberate or not) was likely a factor influencing the decision” to conduct it.

< p>Attached to the notion of consensus with the population, the London police have been shaken by a succession of resounding scandals, which have led to a crisis of confidence and the resignation of its chief Cressida Dick, replaced by the former chief of British counter-terrorism police Mark Rowley.