UK Government intend to stop routine strip searches on young offenders
Date: 25th July 2013
The UK Government has announced that it intends to end the practice of routinely strip-searching young offenders upon first arrival at youth offender institutions, the Howard League for Penal Reform announced in June 2013.
Last year, 11,713 strip-searches took place in youth detention centres, with over 99 per cent of these being performed routinely, rather than in response to perceived or actual risk. An independent inquiry into children's prisons in Britain concluded that "within the custodial context a strip-search is more than just the removal of clothes for a visual inspection. It is a manifestation of power relations. A strip-search involves adult staff forcing a child to undress in front of them. Forcing a person to strip takes all control away and can be demeaning and dehumanising."
UK prison minister, Jeremy Wright, has committed to reintroduce a time-limited pilot using a risk-based approach to strip-searching on reception prior to a national roll-out.
Criminal justice policy is devolved to the Scottish Government; therefore the UK Government's intention to end the practice of routinely strip-searching young offenders upon first arrival at youth offender institutions does not apply to Scotland. Here, any decision to amend the existing policy and guidelines regarding strip-searching is an operational matter for the Scottish Prison Service and not the Scottish Government. At present, strip-searching young offenders on their first arrival is routine.
To find out more on this issue in England, click here to access a blog by Frances Crook (Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform).