Black individuals disproportionately targeted in strip searches in U.K., study finds

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10th June 2024 – (London) In an eye-opening study conducted by the independent British race equality think tank, the Runnymede Trust, it has been revealed that Black individuals in England and Wales are subjected to strip searches by the police at a disproportionately high rate. The report raises concerns about the treatment of Black children and adults, who face a significantly higher likelihood of being subjected to these invasive procedures compared to their white counterparts.

According to the analysis, Black children are 6.5 times more likely than white children to be strip-searched, while Black adults face a staggering 4.7 times higher likelihood than white adults. The data, which comes to light alongside a Home Office consultation on strip searches involving minors, underscores the urgency to address this issue. The consultation follows the distressing Child Q scandal in 2020, where a 15-year-old Black girl was subjected to a strip search at her East London school without appropriate supervision, wrongly accused of carrying the scent of cannabis.

The ramifications of strip searches extend far beyond the individuals directly affected, as emphasized by Shabna Begum, the chief executive of the Runnymede Trust. Begum described the practice as “inherently violent, humiliating, and harmful, especially for children,” emphasizing that the harm caused by racial disparities in strip searches extends to the wider community.

The study’s findings shed light on the alarming disparities in various regions. In London, for instance, more than 47 per cent of strip searches conducted on children target Black children, despite making up only 16.9 per cent of the child population. In Sussex, the disproportionality is even more pronounced, with Black individuals being 18 times more likely to undergo strip searches compared to their white counterparts.

Begum emphasized that effective solutions to building safer communities and safeguarding children require investment in social infrastructure and providing individuals with opportunities and resources to thrive. She criticized the prevailing notion that “tough on crime” policies alone can address social problems and called for a more comprehensive approach.