London police stop five under-10s a day

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The Independent Online

Nearly 2,000 children aged under 10 – or five a day – were stopped by members of Britain's largest police force last year, according to figures from Scotland Yard.

The vast majority of the 1,954 stopped by Metropolitan Police officers were boys (1,715), while a smaller number of girls (239) were also spoken to. Children under 10 are under the age of criminal responsibility.

The new statistics came to light after a mother, Sandra Shepherd, 40, complained that her nine-year-old son Jadan was stopped and searched by officers in Camberwell, south London, while out with his older brother and friends. A senior officer confirmed police are investigating a formal complaint about the incident.

Officers searched Jadan under section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act (1994). This allows police to search anyone they believe is carrying a weapon or anyone in the area of a violent attack. A detailed breakdown of figures for 2008 revealed 115 under-10s were stopped and searched by officers using section 60 powers. Officers also used section 44 of the Terrorism act 2000 to stop 58 under-10s.

Jenny Jones, a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, said police must tackle crime without alienating the public but questioned whether searching children as young as nine was an appropriate or effective use of police resources.

She said: "I believe Mrs Shepherd is right to be angry that this search took place, but particularly that it happened without her or another adult being present."

She added that she would ask the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, whether he thought the rules regarding police powers to search young children should be reviewed.

Supt David Musker, with the police in Lambeth, said: "I confirm this matter has been reported to the Directorate of Professional Standards and will be investigated."