Strip searches of children by police: Children’s Commissioner report welcome
Human rights solicitor Yvonne Kestler explains why she welcomes the report by the Children’s Commissioner into strip searches of children by officers from the Metropolitan Police Service.
Posted on 08 August 2022
Children’s Commissioner, Dame Rachel de Souza raises deep concerns and highlights serious failings in the practice of strip searches of children and I am hopeful her report will open the path for change.
The case of Child Q put a spotlight on the practice of strip searching of children by officers of the Metropolitan Police. This resulted in the investigation undertaken by the Children’s Commissioner which has revealed this devastating data.
The investigation finds that between 2018 and 2020 over 650 children were strip searched, 50 per cent being young black boys and that frequently an appropriate adult was not present.
The investigation recommends that more is done to safeguard children and we support this view. It is concerning that there is a lack of data in respect of the location of some of these strip searches, we agree that better record keeping is necessary. This should ensure proper monitoring and transparency.
We recognise from our own work the issues surrounding the treatment of children in police custody. We are often contacted by concerned parents of children who have encountered the police. It is even more concerning when a child is taken to be strip searched.
It is vital in these circumstances that an appropriate adult is contacted to ensure the safeguarding of these children who will no doubt be afraid and impacted by this distressing experience.
Additional concerns arise where there is clear evidence of a disproportionate use of these powers on children of black and ethnic minorities.
Officers are under a duty to act in a way that complies with their duties under the Equality Act 2010 and that is compatible with the Human Rights Act 1998. Suitable measures and procedures should be in place to protect these rights.
This is incumbent on officers in situations where they are dealing with the most vulnerable of our society such as children. The investigation raises serious concerns about whether these obligations are being met.
It is imperative that the police have practices in place that put the welfare of the child first and that these practices are followed. In today’s current climate where in the course of our work with many individuals we encounter very little trust in the police, this is of the utmost importance.
We welcome the commissioner’s investigations into the same practices by all police forces nationwide given the far-reaching implications of these powers.
Yvonne Kestler is a senior associate solicitor in the human rights department.
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