Published On: Tue, Jul 1st, 2014

More than 1,000 children under 10 stopped and searched in five years

More than 1,000 children under the age of 10 – and some as young as four – have been stopped and searched by the police in England and Wales over the past five years, according to official figures.

The figures released by 22 police forces to an all-party parliamentary inquiry show that 1,136 children under the age of criminal responsibility – 10 years old – were the subject of stop and search operations between 2009 and 2013.

More than one million stop and searches were carried out on children under 18 across 26 of the 43 police forces in England and Wales in the same period. In some forces the use of stop and search against young people accounted for up to 28% of all stops recorded.

Last week the police in Scotland announced they would no longer subject children under 12 to “consensual” stop and searches.

In England and Wales, police forces told the parliamentary inquiry that it was necessary to stop and search under-10s because they could be used to conceal drugs or stolen goods.

The total of 1,136 children under 10 subjected to stop and searches excludes figures for the largest force, the Metropolitan police. The Met could not provide full figures for the period 2009 to 2013, but said it recorded 136 such stops between 2011 and 2013, six of them involving children under five.

Lady Massey of Darwen, who chairs the parliamentary group, said: “We were surprised to find that despite the fact that so many children are being stopped and searched by the police there is no practice guidance to inform how to deal with children, particularly those who are young and vulnerable.”

She said many of the children stopped were likely to be in need of care and protection and could be fleeing sexual violence or gang violence. “The police need to be sure they do not see children as small adults and do more to ensure they always adopt an age appropriate response to every child,” she said.

Among a number of recommendations, the MPs and peers say the police should always record the date of birth of the person being searched and should have separate custody areas for children and young people. The inquiry found that 118 out of 292 custody suites (40%) had separate areas for young people.

Enver Soloman, of the National Children’s Bureau, which runs the inquiry’s secretariat, said: “The inquiry is shining a light on how the police interact with children and finding that there is a need for a new approach. Any child who comes into contact with the police should always be treated differently from an adult.”

Commander Adrian Hanstock, the Association of Chief Police Officers’
spokesman on stop and search, said the figures collected from some
police forces showed that a significant proportion of all-age stop and
searches were carried out on young people: “The reality is that young
adults are disproportionately represented as both victims of crime and

“A recording error that gave the person a default age of zero when no
address was entered has led to an inaccurate figure of children under
10 years old who were allegedly searched. In the genuine cases,
children are often stopped because of intelligence that they are being
exploited by adults, including gang members, to carry drugs, weapons
or get involved in other criminal activity,” he said.

Commander Hanstock said the police would consider the recommendations
published today by the all-party group to ensure they were only
stopping children and young people when they needed to and that they
were dealt with sensitively and appropriately.