1,000 under-10s searched by police in England and Wales
- 1 July 2014
- From the section UK
More than 1,000 children under the age of 10 have been stopped and searched by police in England and Wales over the last five years, figures show.
Data from 22 police forces shows 1,136 children under the age of criminal responsibility were searched.
The figures were revealed by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Children.
The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) said children are often stopped because of suspicion that they are being used to convey drugs or arms.
Scotland Yard said six children under the age of five had been searched by its officers in recent years.
The force could not provide data on under-10s for the whole five-year period, meaning it was not counted as one of the 22 forces, but said it had recorded 136 stop and searches on under-10s between 2011 and 2013.
Acpo's national policing lead for stop and search, Cdr Adrian Hanstock, said there had been 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".
The error was from one force, Sussex Police, said Enver Solomon of the National Children's Bureau (NCB), which released the figures.
The force had recorded the highest number of stop and searches on children under 10 out of the 22 forces that provided data.
Cdr Hanstock said: "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."
The report found that more than one million stop and searches were carried out on people under the age of 18 across 26 forces.
That accounted for between 13% and 26% of all stop and searches carried out by those forces.
Data also suggested stop and search was used "disproportionately" on black and ethnic minority children and young people, the report said.
However the report warned that there were "inconsistencies in the collection and collation of data" meaning it is "difficult to get an accurate picture for all forces in England and Wales".
Baroness Massey said: "We were surprised to find that despite the fact 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 or vulnerable."
She said many were in need of care and protection, adding: "The police need to make sure that they don't see children as small adults and do more to ensure they always adopt an age appropriate response to every child."
Mr Solomon said: "Any child who comes into contact with the police should always be treated differently from an adult.
"For children who are at risk of exploitation, abuse or violence it is particularly important that the police know what steps to take to protect them and put their welfare first."
Cdr Hanstock said: "Figures collected from some police forces show that a significant proportion of all-age stop and searches are carried out on young people.
"The reality is that young adults are disproportionately represented as both victims of crime and offenders."
He added: "Stop and search that is intelligence-led, proportionate and carried out with professionalism and respect is an important tool in tackling crime, especially knife, gun, gang crimes and terrorism.
"Our ultimate goal is always to reduce crime and help keep people safe.
"As a service we are striving to improve how we use this vital tactic with a focus on those areas and types of crime that people are most concerned about."
Cdr Hanstock said Acpo would consider the recommendations published on Tuesday "and the findings of the full report published later this year to ensure we are only stopping children and young people when we need to and that they are dealt with sensitively and appropriately".
In Scotland, the BBC has revealed that almost 3,000 eight to 12-year-olds were searched between April and December last year.
Police Scotland announced a pilot scheme in Fife in June, under which the parents of all children subject to stop and search would be given a letter explaining why.
In April, Home Secretary Theresa May told MPs she would seek a change in the law in England and Wales if the number of stop and searches did not come down.