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Custody detentions and related strip searches (1774A/23)


Custody detentions and related strip searches: data request

I wish to request post-arrest strip search rates by person characteristics for your police force.

I am requesting the following data:

For the three (3) financial years: 2019/20, 2020/21 and 2021/22 from your custody database

I would like an Excel format tables with annual totals for each of the years. For each year, I would like four tables with the annual totals broken down by the following variables:

  1. (Financial) year of detention.
  2. Sex/gender (as appropriate).
  3. Grouped age at time of detention (i.e. under 18, 18 and over)
  4. Self-defined ethnicity.


Please note that these data should be interpreted with caution.

Every effort is made to ensure that the figures presented are accurate and complete. However, it is important to note that these data have been extracted from a number of data sources used by forces for police purposes. The detail collected to respond specifically to your request is subject to the inaccuracies inherent in any large scale recording system. As a consequence, care should be taken to ensure data collection processes and their inevitable limitations are taken into account when interpreting those data.

The figures provided therefore are our best interpretation of relevance of data to your request, but you should be aware that the collation of figures for ad hoc requests may have limitations and this should be taken into account when those data are used.

In addition to the attached information, please be advised that a police search of any person is a very intrusive but important and necessary tool in preventing crime and protecting the public.

Because of the impact searches can have on both individuals and communities there are strict guidelines all officers must follow which emphasise courtesy, consideration and respect throughout the process.

For example, officers can only search a person when they have reasonable grounds to suspect the person is in possession of an illegal item such as a weapon, drugs or stolen items.

A ‘strip search’ involves the removal of anything more than outer clothing. It can only take place if an officer reasonably believes the person being searched has concealed an article which it is necessary to remove. A strip search can only take place in a private area in a police station (often the custody suite) and there must be at least two people present with the officer carrying out the search being the same sex as the person being searched. The person being searched should not normally have to remove all of their clothes at the same time.

If the person being searched is under the age of 17 an appropriate adult must be present during the strip search. An appropriate adult is someone over the age of 18; they could be a relative, friend, or social worker. The young person being searched can consent, in certain circumstances, to the search taking place in the absence of an appropriate adult. In addition, the Children Act 2004 requires police officers to ensure that they have regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of all persons under the age of 18.

An internal Use of Police Powers governance board regularly reviews searches to ensure the powers are being used fairly and effectively and, in addition, search powers are subject to scrutiny by community led Scrutiny Panels as well as the Office of the Police & Crime Commissioner.