Campaigners demand ‘real change’ after ‘shocking’ Met Police strip search data

Figures show out of 5,279 children searched after an arrest in the past three years, 3,939 – around 75% – were from ethnically diverse backgrounds.

Rebecca Speare-Cole
Saturday 26 March 2022 13:16
New Scotland Yard (PA)
New Scotland Yard (PA)

Campaigners are calling for “real change” in light of “shocking” Metropolitan Police data which showed five children are strip-searched every day on average by the force in London.

The figures, first reported by LBC, have prompted fresh anger in the wake of the case of Child Q – a black teenager forced by officers to strip while on her period.

Out of 5,279 children searched after an arrest in the past three years, 3,939 – around 75% – were from ethnically diverse backgrounds.

The data did not cover children who were not arrested but still strip-searched – like Child Q – so it is likely the number in London is even higher.

Weyman Bennett, co-coordinator of Stand UP to Racism campaign group, said the figures are “shocking”.

He said: “You judge a society on how it treats its children.

“These figures are shocking and expose institutional racism in the Met Police.

“We cannot have another statement without real change.”

We need urgent change to deliver a police force that works in the 21st century

Weyman Bennett

Mr Bennett also said it is “shocking” that “these things are still going ahead” more than two decades after the report into the death of Stephen Lawrence was published.

He said: “We need urgent change to deliver a police force that works in the 21st century.”

There have been protests and political condemnation since it emerged the 15-year-old black girl – referred to only as Child Q – had been strip-searched by female Metropolitan Police officers at her north London school in 2020 without another adult present and in the knowledge that she was menstruating.

The girl had been wrongly suspected of carrying cannabis.

Following the “traumatic” search, family members described her as changing from a “happy-go-lucky girl to a timid recluse that hardly speaks”, who now self-harms and needs therapy.

The IOPC launched its investigation following a complaint in May 2021, and said it has completed its inquiries and is finalising its report.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan reacted with “dismay and disgust”, and equalities minister Kemi Badenoch called it an “appalling incident”.

In a statement, the Metropolitan Police defended its policy, known as More Thorough Search where Intimate Parts are exposed (MTIP), in response to the figures.

A spokesperson said: “We work closely with communities in London and understand that stop and search can have a significant and lasting impact on someone, especially an MTIP (More Thorough Search where Intimate Parts are exposed) and strip searches in custody.

“Every search must be lawful, proportionate and necessary and carried out with respect, dignity and empathy.

“While some may question whether any child should be subject to an MTIP or strip search, there are occasions when it is very necessary to prevent harm to children who may be exploited by gangs, County Lines and drug dealers.

“Used appropriately, stop and search powers save lives and are an important tactic to keep Londoners safe, helping us identify criminality and take drugs and dangerous weapons off the streets.

“Officers are highly trained around the use of stop and search. Part of the training is around unbiased decision making, unconscious bias and the impact of the use of these powers on communities.

“There is disparity in the overall use of stop and search in relation to gender, age and race.

“Sadly different crimes tend to affect different groups more than others and it remains a tragic truth that knife crime and street violence in London disproportionately affects boys and young men, particularly of African-Caribbean heritage, both in terms of being victims and perpetrators.

“That said we do not underestimate the impact that the use of stop and search has on some individuals and that it continues to cause significant concern within some communities.”

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