More than a thousand children were stopped and searched in the UK over the past five years despite being below the age of criminal responsibility, according to a parliamentary report.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children found that 1,136 stop and searches were carried out by the UK police on under-10-year-olds since 2009 with the controversial practice used “disproportionately” on black and ethnic minority children in the country.
The reports also showed that police in England and Wales have stopped and searched over one million children and young people under the age of 18 across 26 police forces over the same period.
It also found that 20 of the 43 forces which provided data for the inquiry had no separate custody facilities for minors, meaning that they could be held alongside adults, potentially exposing them to harm and distress.
The All-Party group chair Baroness Massey of Darwen said the findings shows the need for a new approach by police when dealing with young people.
“Many of these children will be in need of care and protection, possibly fleeing from sexual predators or gang violence,” she said, adding that the police need to ensure they always adopt an age appropriate response to every child.
Enver Solomon, of the National Children’s Bureau also said any child who comes into contact with the police should always be treated differently from an adult.
Civil liberty campaigners have criticized Britain’s Home Secretary Theresa May for failing to address the disproportionate targeting of ethnic minorities in the issue of stop and search. Critics say the operations have so far failed to tackle crime in the society and damaged trust and confidence between communities and police.