“Undignified” practice of child strip searches still taking place

school_corridorUnbelievably, tens of thousands of children, as young as 12, are still being subjected to the “undignified” practice of strip searches, despite reassurances from the Youth Justice Board.

Results from an FOI request found that there had been 43,000 recorded incidents of children being strip searched in young offender institutions, secure children’s homes and secure training centers in the 21 months up to December 2012, with only 275 searches finding “illicit” items. When items were found, the most common was tobacco and on no occasions were discoveries of drugs or knives recorded; hardly life or death situations. In 99.4% of searches nothing was found.

The humiliating and intrusive practice should only be used in a limited amount of serious cases against adults, never mind children. The regulation of these intrusive and disproportionate powers is far too weak and urgently needs to be properly addressed. Why are so many searches being conducted and yet so few finding anything? Is this yet another area where powers are being used frequently without suspicion?

In 2011 the Youth Justice Board said that the routine strip-searching of incarcerated children would stop saying that it was “undignified”, lead to “feelings of anger, humiliation and anxiety”, but little has changed since its report.

This is not the first time that there has been a disproportionate use of powers used by officials, just because they can. Between 2007 and 2009 450,000 people were stopped and searched under section 44 of the Terrorism Act; none were convicted of terrorism charges.

On a different, though equally serious, note it was found that searches of luggage have been taking place at Birmingham Airport without the correct permission to do so. The illegal checks of luggage were based on “interpretation of regulations”, which allow border forces to search baggage but only with permission to do so. In this case, if a search took place and nothing illicit was found then no record was made. This is was occurring when luggage is already being scanned to check the contents of the bag, meaning that there are questions as to whether bags need to be routed through, on mass, at all.

There is a systematic problem of officials using powers disproportionately which needs to urgently be addressed. There is simply no justification for over 43,000, many with a background of being sexually assaulted, to have to strip off and be searched so on 8 in 1000 times officials can find some tobacco.

We will be writing to Jeremy Wright MP, Minister for Prisons and Rehabilitation with responsibility for youth justice, to request that this issue is urgently addressed by the Ministry of Justice.


  1. Undignified Practice of Child Strip Searches Still Taking Place – Big Brother Watch | Online Liberaltarian
    5th March 2013

    […] //www.bigbrotherwatch.org.uk/home/2013/03/undignified-practice-of-child-strip-searches-still-ta… […]

  2. Chris Woods
    6th March 2013

    I think there is a world of difference between intrusion into the lives of innocent people with illegal baggage searches and section 44 stops and the humiliation of people who are in secure establishments because (I assume) they have committed a crime – I have far less sympathy with the latter group who are there from their own choice of action.

  3. Guest
    6th March 2013

    Prosecute the bastards for child porno you know you want to!

    Go! Go! Go!

    No I’m not joking or being sarcastic either.

  4. john malpas
    7th March 2013

    what was the real or even median age of these ‘children’?
    Some 17 year old thug might well be carrying. Do you really want to ignore the risk?

    • Guest
      23rd March 2013

      If doing so risks undressing them to the point of nudity, a resounding Yes would apply from all corners.

      Think of the children!

      You must be a damn pedo.

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    9th March 2013

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  6. Peoplesassembly Ofdemocracyvil
    4th May 2013

    The UK way forward //peoplesassemblyofjustice.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/police-public-notice.html

  7. numkelfutumch
    29th May 2013

    ” secure children’s homes and secure training centers in the”

    Centers? FFS!