Children under ten subject to police stop and search finds All Party Parliamentary report

  • 01/07/2014

Media release
Embargoed until: 00:01am Tuesday 1st July 2014

Children under ten subject to police stop and search finds All Party Parliamentary report 

Full report at: 

Police forces have been stopping and searching large numbers of children including those below 10 years old, the age of criminal responsibility in England and Wales, according to a new report published today by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Children, which is clerked by the National Children's Bureau.

The report is based on unpublished data that was requested from police forces by the all party group as part of its 18 month long inquiry into the relationship between children and the police. It shows that in 19 forces over the last 5 years one in five or a quarter of stops were on children, including hundreds of under 10s. Despite this there is no specific guidance in place for the police on how to deal with children who are stopped and searched including how to manage safeguarding issues for vulnerable or young children.

The report also sets out information on the number of separate custody facilities for children showing that 20 forces, including the Metropolitan police, do not have separate provision for children and young peopl

The report's key findings show that:

  • Across 22 police forces, over the last five years, 1,136 stop and searches were carried out on childrenunder the age of ten,
  • During the last five years (2009 to 2013), across 26 police forces,over one millionstop and searches were carried out on children and young people; accounting for asignificant proportion of all-age stop and searches, ranging from 13 to 28 per cent across different police forces.
  • Data provided by forces suggests that stop and search is useddisproportionately on black and minority ethnicchildren and young people.
  • Although looked after children and care leavers are over-represented in the criminal justice system: nearly twice as likely as their peers to be cautioned or convicted of an offence, police forces are unable to provide data on the numbers oflooked after childrenstopped and searched ;none of the 44 police forces were able to submit stop and search data on looked after children.
  • Statutory police guidance and protocolsdo not sufficiently reflect the fact that a sizeable proportion of stop and searches are carried out on children, providing little in the way of specific guidelines including advice on safeguarding and child protection.
  • 20 of the 43 police forces that provided data stated that they had noseparate custody facilities for children and young people; meaning that they may be in close proximity to adults and potentially exposed to unnecessary harm and distress.
  • There is a lack of sufficient guidancefor the police on carrying out stop and searches on children, and providing a safe custodial environment, which is of great concern.                                                                                                                     

Baroness Massey of Darwen, chair of the All Party Group for Children, 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. Many of these children will be in need of care and protection, possibly fleeing from sexual predators or gang violence. 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. Whenever a young person has to be taken into police custody they should always be treated with the greatest care and held in facilities that are designed to meet their needs.' 

'Our inquiry has found many positive initiatives seeking to improve relationships between young people and the police and we look forward to working with government and police leaders to assist in spreading good practice so that children grow up to have confidence in their local force.'

The report sets out a number of key recommendations:

  • The inspectorate of constabulary's (HMIC) annual review of stop and search powers shouldassess proportionality of stop and searches in relation to age, including the stop and search of under-10s.
  • PACE Code A1should be revised to include:
    • a requirement for police forcesto record the date of birth of children and young people on stop and search forms and central recording systems;
    • specific guidance on carrying out stop and search on children, includingadvice on safeguarding and child protectionand what action should be taken to protect vulnerable children, for example children in care or those at risk of abuse and exploitation.
  • HMIC's annual review of stop and search powers should specificallyassess the proportionality of stop and searches of under-18s in relation to ethnicity.
  • The Home Office and Department for Education should work with police forces to consider how best tomonitor rates of stop and search of looked after children.  
  • All newly built custody facilities should include a separate custody area for children and young people,and the Home Office should direct all police forces to consider allocating areas that can be used as separate facilities for children and young people within existing custody facilities. The Home Office should also work with the Association of Chief Police Officers to share good practice in developing juvenile custody facilities.

Enver Solomon, Director of Evidence and Impact at the National Children's Bureau, which runs the secretariat for the all party group, said:

'The inquiry is shining a light on how the police interact with children and finding that there is a need for a new approach. 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. The police should review how they deal with children and ensure they are always treated as having distinct, separate needs from adults'.

The final report of the APPGC's inquiry, including further recommendations for Government, the police and statutory bodies, will be published in October 2014.

The All Party Parliamentary Group for Children inquiry into 'Children and the Police': Initial analysis of information request to police forces is available from:   



For more information contact the NCB media office on 0207 843 6045 / 47 or email For urgent enquiries out of office hours call 07721 097 033.


Notes to editors

About The All Party Parliamentary Group for Children inquiry into 'Children and the Police':  Initial analysis of information request to police forces

Police forces were contacted in January 2014 to ascertain the data, not currently collected nationally, on children and young people in relation to stop and search and custody facilities, two key issues highlighted during the inquiry's oral evidence sessions. The 43 forces across England and Wales and the British Transport Police[1] were requested to state:

1)     Within your jurisdiction, the number of under 18s who have been stopped and searched over the past five years - broken down by age, ethnicity, gender and whether or not they are looked after children. What is the percentage of children who have been stop and searched against the total number?

2)     The number of custody facilities within your jurisdiction; and how many of these have a separate facility for holding young people under 18 detained in police custody.

All of the 44 police forces, including the British Transport Police, responded to our request, although responses were of varying detail. This report sets out an initial analysis of the information provided, focusing on data relating to stop and search, age and ethnicity, and custody facilities for under-18 year-olds. In order to provide comparable data, some of the analysis focuses on a sample of police forces. The report also makes recommendations relating to issues arising from the data. Further analysis will be included in the inquiry's final report.

Throughout, we have used only the data provided by the police forces. It is important to note that there might be errors in the data as a consequence of police recording. For example, the initial data provided by one force on the number of under-10 year-olds stopped and searched was revised when its accuracy was questioned.  

About the inquiry into the way the police interact with children and young people.

During the 2013-14 and 2014-15 parliamentary sessions, the All Party Parliamentary Group for Children has been conducting an inquiry into 'Children and the Police' with the aim of addressing four over-arching questions:

1)       What is the experience of children and young people in interacting with the police?

2)       Which particular groups of children and young people are at greater risk of being criminalised and why?

3)       How can the police improve engagement with children and young people?

4)       What should be the role of wider children's services in supporting this?

Following a written call for evidence last summer, seven oral evidence sessions have been held on:

  • Developing good relationships between children and the police
  • The detention of young people in police custody
  • The prosecution and over-representation of looked after children
  • Engaging with children with SEND and mental health needs
  • The use of stop and search on under-18s
  • Police engagement with youth gangs
  • Child sexual exploitation and trafficking

About the National Children's Bureau
The National Children's Bureau (NCB) is a leading children's charity that for 50 years has been improving the lives of children and young people, especially the most vulnerable. Working with children, and for children, we strive to reduce the impact of inequalities by influencing government using our extensive research and expertise, being the voice for front-line practitioners, and inspiring creative solutions on issues including health, education and care. Every year we reach more than 100,000 children and young people through our membership scheme, links with voluntary, statutory and private organisations, and the 30 specialist membership programmes that we host.

For more information visit



[1] A list of all the police forces that responded to the information request is provided in Appendix A.