More than six hundred children underwent “intrusive and traumatising” strip-searches by the Metropolitan Police over a two-year period, with black boys disproportionately targeted, figures show.
Some 650 10 to 17-year-olds were strip-searched by Met officers between 2018 and 2020, according to data obtained from Scotland Yard by the Children’s Commissioner.
Of these children, 58% were described by the officer as being black, and more than 95% were boys.
The Children’s Commissioner, Dame Rachel de Souza, requested the figures after the emergence of the Child Q scandal, in which a 15-year-old schoolgirl was strip-searched by female Met officers in 2020 after she was wrongly suspected of carrying cannabis.
The search took place without another adult present and in the knowledge that she was menstruating, a safeguarding report found.
A review conducted by City & Hackney Safeguarding Children Partnership (CHSCP) concluded the strip-search should never have happened, was unjustified and racism “was likely to have been an influencing factor”.
Four Metropolitan Police officers are being investigated for gross misconduct by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) in connection with the incident.
Scotland Yard has apologised and said it “should never have happened”.
The law firm Bhatt Murphy announced in March that the teenager was taking civil action against the Met and her school to obtain “cast-iron commitments to ensure this never happens again to any other child”.
Since then, the IOPC has confirmed it is investigating four further strip-searches of children between early 2020 and 2022, and is considering whether to look into three more.
The figures obtained by the Children’s Commissioner show that the number of strip-searches on children increased each year, with 18% carried out in 2018, 36% in 2019 and 46% in 2020.
In almost a quarter (23%) of cases, strip-searches took place without an “appropriate adult” confirmed to have been present.
This is required by law, except in cases of “urgency”, and usually is a parent or guardian, but can also be a social worker, carer or a volunteer.
Two thirds of these (70%) involved black boys.