We believe that together, we can be part of creating a better society where Black women and girls are treated with dignity and respect too. Discover the many ways you can be involved and make a difference today.
According to a recent investigation by the investigative journalism group Liberty Investigates, almost half of all types of strip searches performed by Metropolitan Police on female children and teenagers aged 19 and under were Black.
The investigation also found that Black female children and teenagers are three times more likely to experience invasive strip searches by the Met police than their white peers. These findings provide further evidence of police misconduct against Black people, including the disproportionate stop-and-search of Black girls.
Strip searches on children should only be used in exceptional circumstances and with parental consent, as they can be invasive, humiliating, and traumatic. However, the investigation reveals that the Met Police unfairly targeted girls, particularly Black girls, resulting from racial profiling, adultification bias, and misogynoir – all of which stem from systematic racism.
Over 75% of all girls who were stopped and searched by the Met Police had no further action taken against them. This article examines the findings of the investigation, the issue of the over-policing of Black people in the UK, the adultification of Black children, the intersectional disparities Black girls face, and the need for reform.
For many decades, the use of stop-and-search practices by the police has been a significant concern for Black communities in the UK. Recent statistical data serves to not only reaffirm what has been known for years but also to highlight to wider society the severity of systemic discrimination within the police force.
While the practice of stop-and-search by police is legal under certain circumstances, the frequency of these searches and the violation of human rights are alarming. Black people are disproportionately affected by higher rates of stop-and-search due to systemic racism, which reinforces racial profiling, perpetuates systemic discrimination, and contributes to a lack of trust within Black communities towards the police.
In late March 2023, the Children’s Commissioner published a report analysing police strip searches of children in England and Wales. The report found that Black children are strip-searched 11 times more often than their White peers. The evidence suggests that this is not an isolated problem with London but is nation wide, highlighting the urgent need to address discriminatory practices in law enforcement.
A week after the report was published, Liberty Investigates released troubling information about the stop-and-search practices of the Metropolitan Police in London, which highlighted the over-policing of Black girls and teenagers aged 19 and under. This evidence reinforces the existence of racial profiling in law enforcement and also emphasises the immediate need to address these discriminatory practices.
Liberty Investigates collaborated with The Guardian and Channel 4 News to obtain and analyse data through a Freedom of Information request about the stop-and-search practices of the Met Police from 2017 to 2022.
The data differentiates between two types of strip searches – one where officers remove a person’s clothing while keeping intimate parts covered and the other where the person’s private parts are exposed. Across both types of strip searches conducted on girls and teenagers up to the age of 19, 45% of those searched were Black.
The investigation found that 110 female children and teenagers had to undergo invasive strip searches, which exposed their intimate body parts. Even more concerning is that out of the 110 girls and teenagers who underwent invasive strip searches, 52 or 47% were Black – this is the stat highlighting that Black girls subjected to 3 times more invasive strip-searches by the Met police compared to their white peers. This is highly disproportionate, considering Black females aged 19 years or younger account for only 17.5% of London’s population.
The results of the investigation by Liberty Investigates were published just over a year after the release of a Local Child Safeguarding Practice Review of Child Q. The 15-year-old Black schoolgirl who was strip-searched by four Metropolitan Police officers while on her period, without parental consent, and was wrongly suspected of carrying cannabis.
This incident is not isolated, and similar incidents have contributed to the growing mistrust of the police. The public inquiry into Child Q’s case emphasised the need for greater accountability and transparency in law enforcement.
However, after the strip search of Child Q took place, Liberty Investigates analysed data that revealed the Met conducted 54 strip searches on female children and teenagers between 2021 and 2022. Three of these searches were conducted on children between the ages of 10 and 14.
The fact that 75% of stop and searches conducted by the Met Police on women and girls result in no further action is worrying, particularly when considering gender and race-based discrimination. This disproportionate use of stop and search on women and girls, who are statistically less likely to be involved in serious crime, raises questions about the effectiveness of this police power.
To understand the impact of policing with prejudice and how it affects Black girls, a nuanced and intersectional approach is necessary.
The intersection of racism and misogyny, commonly referred to as misogynoir, is evident in the systemic oppression that has led to Black girls subjected to 3 times more invasive strip-searches by the Met police.
In addition, the adultification of Black girls, who are seen as less innocent, more mature and responsible for their behaviour based on their race, results in harsher punishments and an increased perception of a more significant threat by police officers and those in positions of power.
To address prejudice policing experienced by Black girls, it is essential to understand how various forms of discrimination connect, interact and compound each other. Recognising and remedying these issues is crucial to creating a more equitable and just society.
Shenna Darcheville, the Youth Voice Lead and Research Coordinator at StopWatch, an organisation that monitors the police explained to Liberty Investigates, that the overrepresentation of young Black girls in police strip-search statistics results from “adultification,” which refers to the biased perception by some officers that Black girls are more mature and less innocent than their white counterparts.
Darcheville described the strip searches as “absolutely horrific,” involving officers touching areas they should not and causing fear and trauma. She emphasised the devastating impact these experiences can have on mental health and well-being of those affected.
Darcheville who is running a research project on stop and search, mentioned that children and young people have reported to her that they felt “violated” and “sexually abused” by strip searches.
Black Girls Subjected to 3 Times More Invasive Strip-Searches by the Met Police