Teenager recalling strip-search without adult present says he 'felt embarrassed'

'All these officers around me looking at me, naked, I was about 15 or 14 at the time as well... they abuse power'

A young black man who was strip-searched by officers as a teenager without an adult present said he believes police “abuse power.”

More than 600 children underwent “intrusive and traumatising” strip-searches by the Metropolitan Police over a two-year period, with black boys disproportionately targeted, figures show.

Some 650 10 to 17-year-olds were strip-searched by Met officers between 2018 and 2020, according to data obtained from Scotland Yard by the Children’s Commissioner.

Isaiah Turner, now 18, was just 14 when he was strip-searched and described the experience as “completely embarrassing.”

“I’ve been strip searched once and the way I felt after that was completely embarrassed, I felt embarrassed,” he told ITV News.

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“All these officers around me looking at me, naked, I was about 15 or 14 at the time as well. My parent or guardian wasn’t present.

“It’s just they abuse power, really and truly. That’s the best way to put it – police abuse power.”

He said he has been subject to stop and search powers many times even though he has never had anything on him he shouldn’t have.

His trust has been so badly damaged, he said, that he wouldn’t even turn to police if he needed help.

“If something was to go wrong with me, I wouldn’t even call the police for help, realistically, I wouldn’t,” he said.

The number of children strip searched increased each year between 2018 and 2020. Credit: ITV News

“I don’t feel like they would willingly want to help me like that. The way I’ve been victimised as a youth, I don’t feel like they would want to help me that way, that’s just how I feel.”

Of the children referred to in the statistics, 58% were described by the officer as being black, and more than 95% were boys.

In almost a quarter (23%) of cases, strip-searches took place without an “appropriate adult” confirmed to have been present.

This is required by law, except in cases of “urgency”, and is usually a parent or guardian, but can also be a social worker, carer or a volunteer.

Two-thirds of these (70%) involved black boys.

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The Children’s Commissioner, Dame Rachel de Souza, requested the figures after the Child Q scandal came to light in March.

The 15-year-old schoolgirl was strip-searched by police while on her period after being wrongly suspected of carrying cannabis at school.

The search, by female Metropolitan Police officers, took place in 2020 without another adult present and in the knowledge that she was menstruating, a safeguarding report found.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: “The Metropolitan Police is progressing at pace work to ensure children subject to intrusive searches are dealt with appropriately and respectfully.

"We recognise the significant impact such searches can have.

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"We have already made changes and continue to work hard to balance the policing need for this type of search with the considerable impact it can have on young people.

“We have ensured our officers and staff have a refreshed understanding of the policy for conducting a ‘further search’, particularly around the requirement for an appropriate adult to be present.

“We have also given officers advice around dealing with schools, ensuring that children are treated as children and considering safeguarding for those under 18.

“More widely we have reviewed the policy for ‘further searches’ for those aged under 18.

“This is to assure ourselves the policy is appropriate and also that it recognises the fact a child in these circumstances may well be a vulnerable victim of exploitation by others involved in gangs, county lines and drug dealing.”