• Wednesday, July 17, 2024
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Black children six times more likely to be strip searched by UK police

Black children six times more likely to be strip searched by UK police

Black children in the UK are more than six times more likely to be strip-searched by police, a new study has found.

A study of Home Office data by the Runnymede Trust found black children are 6.5 times more likely to be told they must strip while detained in police custody.

The research revealed that black people were 10 times more likely to be strip-searched by police at 10 forces in England and Wales, and a black person is 18 times more likely to be subject to a strip search by Sussex Police.

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Nationally black adults were 4.7 times more likely than white adults to be told they must strip, the Guardian reports.

The Runnymede Trust, a civil rights think tank, said the data is another example of institutional racism.

The data, which covers the year until March 2023, showed black people were more likely to be strip-searched in all forces included in the study except North Wales police, who did not use the tactic in the year examined.

Protests erupted in 2020 when it emerged that a 15-year-old black school girl was strip-searched while on her period after being wrongly suspected of carrying cannabis at a school in Hackney.

During the incident, the girl was taken out of an exam to the school’s medical room and strip-searched by two female Met police officers who were looking for cannabis, while teachers remained outside.

The girl’s intimate body parts were exposed and she was made to take off her sanitary towel, according to a safeguarding review of the incident published in March last year. No drugs were found.

The Metropolitan police is the biggest user of strip searching, the Runnymede Trust study reported, with the Met carrying out around a third of strip searches in England and Wales in the data used.

Nearly half of strip-searches carried out on children in London were on black children, who make up 16.9 per cent of London’s child population.

The Metropolitan Police told the Guardian it had made changes since the Child Q scandal.

The force said it had been “overusing this power” and work locally and across the Met has significantly reduced numbers.

A spokesperson said: “We wish these types of searches were not necessary, but sadly we know there are children in London being exploited to carry drugs and weapons for others, as well as being involved in criminality.

“We are working hard to understand and minimise the impact of these types of searches, as we know they can have a significant impact on young people, as well as tackle issues such as disproportionality.”

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Dr Shabna Begum, chief executive of the Runnymede Trust, described strip searches as “inherently violent, humiliating and harmful”.

Dr Begum described the tactic as an invasive procedure and “when deployed with this level of racialised disproportionality, by police forces riddled with institutional racism, the harm reaches way beyond the individual child or person”.

The CEO added: “If we actually want to build safer communities and safeguard our children, we need to invest in our social infrastructure and ensure people have the opportunities and resources to thrive and flourish.”

Assistant chief constable Andrew Mariner, the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for stop and search, said: “We welcome a recent government consultation which would require any strip searches of children to be approved by a senior officer of at least inspector rank.

“The landmark Police Race Action Plan has the backing of every chief constable and commits our service to anti-racism, including proactively challenging racial disparity in the use of our powers.

“The plan is working … to develop a series of major reforms to all police stops, including strip-searches as well as things like stop and search, which will focus on elements such as racial disparities, supervision, adultification and safeguarding.”

Sussex police said it “recognises disparities impacting black and ethnic minority groups and is actively addressing these issues as part of its commitment to becoming an anti-racist organisation”.

The force said that as well as training for officers on searches, “strip-searches of black detainees are specifically reviewed by an external, independent scrutiny panel on a monthly basis to identify disproportionality or learning, and ensure they comply with relevant legislation”.