Children’s Law Centre secures review of PSNI strip searches of children

Children's Law Centre secures review of PSNI strip searches of children

Fergal McFerran

A review of PSNI strip-searches of children and young people in custody will be carried out after concerns were raised by the Children’s Law Centre (CLC).

The Northern Ireland Policing Board said its human rights adviser will “review the compliance with human rights in how the PSNI addresses children and young people and the process of strip searching in custody”.

The terms of reference published by the Board highlights two key concerns: the evidential basis for conducting strip searches, and the lack of an appropriate adult being present in most cases.

In January 2023, the Children’s Law Centre uncovered a number of concerning statistics highlighting the absence of items found in most cases of a strip search and concern around the threshold being used to justify strip searches, the overwhelming majority of which took place without an appropriate adult present.

Amnesty International has also called on the PSNI to end the practice of strip-searching children.

Fergal McFerran of the Children’s Law Centre said: “The Children’s Law Centre welcomes this investigation. We have consistently raised our concerns around the strip-searching of children and young people by the PSNI. We are pleased that Policing Board members and the human rights adviser have taken our concerns seriously.

“We believe the commissioning of this investigation is itself a sign that serious concerns in relation to the practice of strip-searching children remain unanswered.

“We hope the investigation will bring the appropriate levels of scrutiny and we have no doubt there will be serious failings identified. It is right that the actions of the PSNI on this issue are carefully examined.

“From the information we have been able to uncover, we know that in almost all cases, nothing is found as a result of a strip-search. It is our view that this demonstrates the lack of justification for using such an invasive use of force on children, some of whom have been as young as 14.”

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland programme director, said: “The use of strip searches on children is a serious violation of their human rights and dignity.

“We welcome the Policing Board’s review and hope it is a catalyst for an end to a practice which raises serious questions about the PSNI’s commitment to upholding the rights of the child.”

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