I am today requesting further information from the chief officers of all police forces in England and Wales on their practice regarding strip searches of children, using my unique statutory powers.
This follows the appalling experiences of Child Q, whose bravery in speaking up should not be forgotten. In August, I published Metropolitan Police data showing that between 2018 and 2020 the Metropolitan Police strip searched 650 children between 10 and 17 years old under stop and search powers.
These searches had a deeply concerning ethnic disproportionality and regularly did not meet national strip search guidelines for searches to be conducted with an appropriate adult present. I was further concerned that the Metropolitan Police was not able to readily account for the number or circumstances of strip searches of children that it conducted.
Since publication, I have been working constructively with Sir Mark Rowley, the new Metropolitan Police Commissioner, and all policymakers in the policing sector on this important issue.
I firmly believe that a police power that is as intrusive and traumatic for children as a strip search must be treated with the utmost care and responsibility. It must also be accompanied by a robust and transparent system of scrutiny to protect and safeguard vulnerable children.
I am conducting this analysis nationally to reassure myself that the issues around Child Q are not more widespread. I will be publishing my analysis of this data in full early next year.
I will continue to work to ensure that strip searching is only undertaken when absolutely justified, and that appropriate safeguards are in place to protect children, and to ensure that they are fully supported and cared for after a search has taken place.