Over the last year, I have published a series of reports on strip searching by police carried out as part of stop and searches, following the shocking incident involving Child Q. You can find these reports here and here.
Stop and search is the name given to a number of powers that police have to search people or vehicles in public, when they have reasonable grounds to believe that certain crimes have been committed.
While children under 10 years old are below the age of criminal responsibility, children may be stopped and searched by police.
In 2021-22, police in England and Wales stopped and searched a child 94,975 times. The reason for these searches was most commonly for drugs (41,769, 44%) or offensive weapons not including firearms (26,927, 28%). Of these, 8,516 (9%) ended up in an arrest – 7% of those for drugs, 11% for offensive weapons.
There are reasons why children might be concerned about stop and search:
- Black children are much more likely to be stopped and searched than White children.
- Stop and search can affect children’s experience of public space and their communities. It can make them feel scared, unwelcome or unsafe.
- Some individual children are stopped and searched repeatedly.
- Children who have been stopped and searched may not trust the police or have confidence in them to protect them.
What children said about stop and search
‘Ethnic minorities are made to think that they are going to be treated equally when in reality they are less likely to go to university, to be accepted into jobs but when it comes to policing well the statistic show (October 27th 2020) black people are 9x more likely to be stopped and searched than their white counterparts! Why is this happening? We all know why, it’s because of racism […] So that’s the first thing that’s stopping me, being perceived as a criminal’Girl, aged 15.
‘Racism and discrimination because it makes me feel like an outsider police brutality especially towards black people.’Girl, aged 15.
“I am in care, I know I will have a better chance for myself, because my foster Carers work hard to help me and promote my relationship with my birth parents. Because of that I feel like I have more love than a normal child. It makes me feel stronger like I can have the confidence to be a police officer and I can achieve the qualifications I need.
If I had stayed living with my dad I think I would be in a lot of trouble now and if I think I had gone to live with my mum I would not be a very nice person and hate the world and blame everyone. I love my foster Carers, they treat me like their own but still support me loving and accepting my parents. They do so much more than they have to and so much more than the other 4 foster parents I have had. I’ve told them I’m staying with them until I’m 25.”Girl, aged 14 living in foster care.
“People telling them they can’t do something they want to do. If a child wants to be a policeman encourage him and make sure he makes right decisions down the path.”Boy, aged 12.
‘My first time I’ve been stopped and searched without being arrested […] I walked along the street and they were in the car. The car doors are flung open. “Get down on the ground. Get down on the ground.” It felt very much like I was some sort of terrorist. You know, I’ve been made to get down on the ground, hands behind my back, then brought me up and then searched me. [It] really felt like they were trying to put me in prison.
So then when after about 17 [years old], they were stopping me, searching me, arrested me, and they weren’t finding anything, they were finding no evidence of me selling drugs because I wasn’t selling drugs. I’d left that life. It’s still felt incredibly targeted and felt very much like they were trying to pursue something that just wasn’t there. And at that point it’s very, very hard to believe that they’re doing that for the community, that they’re really trying to benefit somebody. […] It doesn’t feel like they’re trying to close down the net on organised crime or drugs being sold within the town’.Boy, aged 19.