5,000 police strip searches carried out on children as young as 12 over just two years

London Metropolitan Police says the ability to conduct strip searches is a 'vital power'JACK TAYLOR/AFP/Getty Images

According to figures released by 13 police forces in England and Wales, more than 5,000 children aged 17 or under have been strip-searched between 2013 and 2015.

Four thousand of these searches, normally aimed at discovering weapons or drugs, were carried out by London's Metropolitan Police - which described the ability to carry out strip searches as "a vital power".

Across subjects of all age groups, 113,000 searches that involved the removal of more than a suspect's outer clothing were undertaken.

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The figures emerged as part of a Radio 5 Live investigation into policing practices, which asked all 45 UK police forces for strip-search information. Only 13 responded with figures.

Georgia Wood was taken into police custody and strip-searched when she was just 12 years old. She remembers being taken into custody in south Wales eight years ago by officers who suspected her mother of possessing drugs.

"They didn't explain to me until we got to the police station. And they literally just said 'this is what's going to happen and we're going to do it'," she told BBC Radio 5 Live Investigates.

"For someone to just be so horrible and demeaning, I just thought 'well, if I'm meant to respect my elders, aren't my elders meant to respect me'? And I really didn't feel respected in that situation."

Another young person subjected to a strip search was Marion - not her real name - who says she was handcuffed, pinned to the floor, and had all her clothes cut from her body by female officers at a London police station.

She says male officers stood at an open door while she was naked on the floor before she was later "paraded through the station" in just a paper suit.

She was 24 when she had been taken into custody while trying to help a young man she saw being arrested.

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"I was pinned to the ground with three officers on me. It felt like there were more than that because they were grabbing me from all sides," she told 5 Live.

"They were also talking with male officers who were standing at the open door. They were chatting together about what implements to use on me, like leg restraints, scissors, things like that. They were saying things like, 'there's a good girl' which I found really humiliating.

"Once they had me completely naked they put me into a paper suit which didn't do up properly so my breasts were exposed and they paraded me like that through the station then dumped me on the floor of another cell."

She was subsequently found not guilty of obstruction and two charges of assaulting police officers.

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Yvette Cooper describes the strip-search figures as 'deeply troubling'Reuters

The Metropolitan Police said two officers were dealt with under misconduct regulations for failure to maintain adequate records.

"The complainant appealed the Met's decision to the IPCC [Independent Police Complaints Commission]. This appeal is currently under consideration," it said.

The Met added that 5.1% of children arrested in 2015 were strip-searched compared to 12.2% of adults.

It said: "Strip-searching is a vital power in police custody to not only identify and seize evidence but also to ensure the safety and security of all detainees and staff.

"Each search must be based on an objective assessment of the need and proportionality to search the person to that extent. Legal safeguards are applied to ensure the welfare needs of the detainee are considered and met."

Labour MP Yvette Cooper, who chairs the Home Affairs Select Committee, described the figures as "very troubling".

"I think this is quite concerning because we know so little about why so many strip-searches are taking place," she said.

"It's really distressing for people and I think the thing about a strip-search is it is so intrusive, especially if you're talking about children or teenagers."

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