Metropolitan Police releases 'alarming' strip-search figures
Friday 10 January 2014
People from black and minority ethnic backgrounds account for more than half of those strip-searched by the Metropolitan Police in the past three years, according to “extremely alarming” figures collected by the force.
Between January 2010 and August 2013, of the 94,448 people who were searched by the Met after being arrested, 52.5 per cent were from Afro-Caribbean, Asian and other minority groups.
The numbers, released after Freedom of Information requests, will add to concerns about race relations in the wake of the controversy over the Mark Duggan inquest earlier this week. Many in London’s black community were angry at the ruling that Mr Duggan was lawfully killed by a police marksman in 2011.
They figures will also add to the complaints that black youths are disproportionately targeted under stop-and-search powers.
By law, strip-searches cannot be used as routine and must be approved by an inspector. They can only be carried out on people under arrest, in cells either at a police station or in a detention centre. There must be reasonable grounds to believe the subject has concealed a Class A drug to supply to others, or an object which they could use to cause physical injury. People can be asked to spread their legs or bend over when being searched.
However, the figures also showed that more than 25 per cent all those strip-searched were released with no further action being taken – prompting complaints that the power is being used too frequently.
The Labour MP for Tooting, Sadiq Khan, who is shadow minister for London, said that many people would find the numbers “completely unacceptable”. “These figures are extremely alarming, especially coming in the same week as the Duggan inquest,” he said.
“If a section of Londoners thinks that the police are discriminating against them, then their willingness to cooperate... will be less.”
The actor Daniel Kaluuya is currently suing the Met, alleging that he was pinned down and later strip-searched after being mistaken for a suspected drug dealer in 2010.
Jocelyn Cockburn, a human rights lawyer representing Mr Kaluuya, said the figures showed “a connection between the race of the detainee and the likelihood of them being strip-searched”.
“It is a matter of public record that police powers of stop-and-search are susceptible to racial stereotyping,” she said.
“Young black men are significantly more likely to be suspected of drug offences and therefore it follows that they are subject to higher rates of strip-searches.”
A spokesman for the Met said: “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.”
He added: “Recent inspections have reported that strip-searches that were examined were considered to be justified and proportionate.”
The force added that of the complaints about the searches in the relevant period, 25 per cent came from ethnic minorities, compared to 28 per cent from white people.
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