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Monday, August 08, 2022

Not fit for purpose?

Reading the shocking news in today's Guardian that 650 children were strip-searched over a two-year period, with the majority being found innocent of the suspicions against them, I was not surprised to find that the force concerned was the Metropolitian Police.

The paper says that the children’s commissioner for England, Dame Rachel de Souza, was not convinced that the force was “consistently considering children’s welfare and wellbeing” after police data showed that in almost a quarter of cases (23%) an appropriate adult was not present during the search, despite this being a requirement under statutory guidance.

She was also concerned by ethnic disproportionality, after the data showed that of children aged 10 to 17 who were strip-searched between 2018 and 2020, almost three out of five (58%) were black, as described by the officer. For 2018 alone the figure rose to 75%. In Greater London, 19% of 10- to 17-year-olds are black:

De Souza questioned how far this “intrusive and traumatising” practice was necessary after figures showed that in 53% of cases no further action was taken. “This low level of successful searches arguably indicates that this intrusive practice may well not be justified or necessary in all cases.”

Her damning report, published on Monday, also raised concerns about “a lack of appropriate oversight” of police practice surrounding strip-searches after the data revealed that in one in five cases there was no way of knowing where it even took place.

Of 269 searches in 2021 for which the location of the search was recorded, 57% happened at a police station and 21% at a home address. De Souza’s report says 22% happened at another location but, “due to the low quality of recording practice, it is not possible to determine where these searches took place”.

The data showed the number of searches increased between 2018 and 2020, with 18% of all searches carried out in 2018, 36% in 2019 and 46% in 2020. Almost all of the children strip-searched (95%) were boys, and a quarter were 15 and under.

This is of course about the culture, training and diversity of the Metropolitan Police, which is at present completely inadequate. Combined with the many other incidents around the forces competence, one has to ask if they are fit for purpose, and what is being done to address that?
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