Met five kids every week without stopping them first, LBC reveals
July 25, 2022, 08:23 | Updated: July 25, 2022, 09:20
Five children are strip searched by Met Police officers every week without even being arrested first.
Data obtained by LBC shows that 799 children between the ages of 10 and 17 were strip searched while not in custody, from 2019 to 2021.
The vast majority involved alleged drug offences, and in just under half of the cases there were no results or arrests.
The numbers also reveal huge racial disparities; more than half of the children strip searched were black (436), three-quarters of them were of mixed ethnicity (607), while only one in five (179) were white.
Scotland Yard sparked national outrage after it was announced earlier this year that a 15-year-old black schoolgirl from Hackney, known as Child Q, was strip searched, but not arrested for a crime.
The searches for 10 other children have also been referred to the police watchdog for investigation.
Labor MP for Battersea, Marsha de Cordova, believes that no child should be subjected to a strip search if they have not been arrested first.
Read more: Revealed: Most children strip searched by Met come from ethnic backgrounds
“Certainly, no child should be strip searched without even being arrested,” she said.
“It’s what happened to Child Q, it’s happening to countless other kids, and it’s wrong.”
Ali Hassan Ali is a former officer, he says the practice is extremely harmful to children; from their mental health to their trust in authority.
He spoke to ten families whose child was strip searched. In six cases, they were not arrested first either.
Read more: Watchdog to investigate 7 more cases of Met strip searches of children as young as 14
“All the families tell me that the child is spending more time in his room now, not doing well in school, not socializing like before,” he said.
“They see a police car and they are scared.
“It’s like it left a scar in their hearts and minds.”
Read more: Child Q family say London ‘deserves better’ as Met placed in special measures
He and Marsha De Cordova are outraged by the racial disparity of these new characters.
Both speak of the “adultification” of black children, especially boys, where they are perceived to be older than they actually are.
Marsha, who believes the Met is still institutionally racist, has called on the Home Office to release data on all-forces strip searches every year for the sake of transparency.
“Unless there is transparency in the production and publication of this data, it will be up to MPs and journalists to put in FOIs,” she said.
“That can’t be true. We need transparency.”
London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who has criticized the Met in the past for cultural issues relating to racism, misogyny and homophobia, said he had raised the issue with force before.
“One of the most concerning things for me is the number of strip searches without arrest,” he said.
“The police department now ensures that every strip search of a child goes through appropriate checks to ensure a senior officer reviews the case and clears it before it takes place.”
The Metropolitan Police said they recognize the impact such searches can have on children and are working hard to ensure officers have an up-to-date understanding of the policy.
A spokesperson said: “The Metropolitan Police are progressing at the pace of work to ensure that children subjected to intrusive searches are treated appropriately and respectfully. We recognize the significant impact such searches can have. We have already made changes and continue to work hard to balance the police need for this type of search with the significant impact it can have on young people.
“We have ensured that our officers and staff have an up-to-date understanding of the policy for conducting a ‘further search’, particularly as it relates to the requirement that an appropriate adult be present.
“We have also given officers advice on dealing with schools, ensuring children are treated as children and considering protecting those under 18.
“More broadly, we have reviewed the ‘additional searches’ policy for those under 18. This is to ensure that the policy is appropriate and also that it recognizes the fact that a child in these circumstances may well be a vulnerable victim of exploitation by others involved in gangs, County Lines and the drug trade.
“To ensure we have very clear control over this type of research, we have introduced new measures across the Met.
“In addition to requiring a discussion with their supervisor before requesting permission for a further search and the presence of an appropriate adult, an inspector from a local command unit must now give permission before the searches take place to ensure proper supervision.
“A Merlin report must also be submitted, to ensure that the protection of the child is the priority. The Merlin system contains information about a child coming to the attention of the police.”