Over 4,500 children have been strip searched by London’s metropolitan police in the last five years, it has been revealed - a figure that campaigners say is “worrying” but which police say is necessary.
4,638 children aged between 10 and 16 were asked to remove their clothes by the Met between April 2008 and the end of 2013, figures released under the Freedom of Information Act and obtained by the Guardian show. Over a third were then released by police without charge.
According to the figures officers strip searched over 134,000 people between 2009 and 2014, of which 3.5 percent were kids and 10.5 percent were female. The number of actual children searched every year peaked in 2010 at 990. Campaigners were outraged at the figures.
Julian Huppert, a liberal democrat MP for Cambridge, who has campaigned – so far unsuccessfully - for an adult other than a police officer to be present during the search said the figures were “extremely worrying” and told the Guardian he had raised the issue with the police minister Damian Green.
The legal director of the Police Action Center, a charity that advises the public about pursuing legal action against the police, also questioned the necessity of strip searches.
“Strip searching is an inhuman and degrading experience and children should not be subjected to such treatment unless there is no other feasible method to detect crime available to the police,” she said.
But the police have defended the practice as “proportionate and appropriate”.
A spokeswoman for the Met said that “strip searching is a vital power in police custody not only to identify and seize evidence but also to ensure the safety and security of all detainees and staff.”