Over 3,100 Children Strip-Searched by Police in England and Wales, Revealing Stark Racial Disparities

Disturbing data reveals over 3,100 children, disproportionately from minority backgrounds, were strip-searched by UK police in 2023, sparking calls for urgent reform to protect vulnerable youth.

author-image
Mazhar Abbas
Updated On
New Update
Over 3,100 Children Strip-Searched by Police in England and Wales, Revealing Stark Racial Disparities

Over 3,100 Children Strip-Searched by Police in England and Wales, Revealing Stark Racial Disparities

In a deeply concerning revelation, data from police forces in England and Wales has shown that over 3,100 children, some as young as 10, were subjected to strip searches by police in 2023. The figures, obtained from 41 out of 43 police forces, reveal stark racial disparities, with black, Asian, and mixed-race children significantly overrepresented in these invasive searches.

The data shows that out of a total of 68,874 strip searches carried out on individuals under the age of 18, 3,122 were conducted on children. The highest percentages of strip searches involving minors were reported in Sussex (15.1%), Cambridgeshire (11.7%), and Northamptonshire (12.6%). London, the South-East, and the East of England had the highest total numbers of child strip searches, with 934, 391, and 625 cases, respectively.

The figures reveal that black, Asian, and mixed-race children were disproportionately targeted, making up a much higher proportion of those searched compared to their white peers. Less than half of all children strip-searched had their ethnic background recorded as white. Experts have described the practice as "deeply worrying" and "inherently violent, degrading, and harmful," particularly when disproportionately targeting certain racial groups.

Why this matters: The alarming racial disparities in child strip searches highlight the urgent need for a comprehensive review of police powers and safeguards to protect the welfare of minors, especially those from minority backgrounds. The disproportionate targeting of non-white children raises serious questions about systemic racism and the potential for long-lasting psychological harm inflicted upon vulnerable young individuals.

The troubling findings come in the wake of the high-profile "Child Q" case, where a 15-year-old black schoolgirl was strip-searched by police after being wrongly suspected of carrying drugs, sparking widespread outrage and calls for reform. The government has called for an urgent review of police powers and safeguards, while the National Police Chiefs Council has pledged to take action to improve protections surrounding the strip-searching of children.

The data underscores the critical need for an urgent and comprehensive review of how police powers are exercised and whether adequate safeguards are in place to protect the rights and well-being of children, particularly those from minority communities. As the Chief Constable of British Transport Police, Lucy D'Orsi, stated, "Strip searches are an important power, but they must be used appropriately and only when necessary."

Key Takeaways

  • Over 3,100 children, some as young as 10, were strip-searched by police in 2023 in England and Wales.
  • Black, Asian, and mixed-race children were disproportionately targeted, making up over half of those searched.
  • The highest percentages of child strip searches were in Sussex, Cambridgeshire, and Northamptonshire.
  • Experts describe the practice as "deeply worrying" and "inherently violent, degrading, and harmful" to children.
  • The government and police have pledged to review police powers and safeguards to protect children's rights and well-being.