Why is the Metropolitan Police strip-searching so many men, women and children, some as young as ten years old? One every 20 minutes! In one case, four policemen held down a young woman and violently ripped off all her clothes, leaving her naked while other cops watched on CCTV.
Held down and stripped naked. Don't call the cops. They're the ones doing it.
Hi, I'm Leon Hawthorne. British police are strip-searching innocent men, women and children in staggering numbers.
Imagine you're being questioned by police. You haven't been charged with any offence. You're not even under arrest but they tell you to take off all your clothes. If you refuse, they will hold you down and violently rip them off.
Sounds like sexual assault, but it's perfectly legal.
In London, the Metropolitan Police carries out 25,000 strip-searches every year. That's one every 20 minutes. Including on more than 1,000 children, some as young as ten years old.
Why? The Police and Criminal Evidence Act allows police to strip-search if they believe a person is carrying drugs, weapons or other contraband.
But shockingly when I asked Scotland Yard and the Home Office how many of these strip-searches results in anything being found, the answer is... huh?
They don't know how effective strip-searching is as a policing tool for discovering evidence.
We do know, four out of five "intimate searches" find nothing.
An intimate search is different from a regular strip-search and is carried out less frequently. A strip-search is no hands... they merely look at your naked body. But in an intimate search, your anus or vagina are physically penetrated. And yet four out of five people are hiding nothing and will, understandably, feel they have been raped by the state.
Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary, the official police watchdog, looked at strip-searches and said:
"Where we did observe strip-searching, it sometimes seemed unnecessary... it appeared to be undertaken almost by default in certain circumstances, for example if the detainee was intoxicated or uncooperative."
The same report found black detainees were twice as likely to be strip-searched as whites.
"...we consider that police forces are at considerable risk of discriminatory strip-searching practices."
Five out of six people 'stopped and searched' by police are released without being arrested. They are completely innocent, yet like George the Poet, the artist who performed at Prince Harry and Meghan's wedding, they can be humiliated on the street and strip-searched in the back of a police van.
The rules governing strip-searches are laid down in 'Annex A of PACE Code C - the Code of Practice for the Detention, Treatment and Questioning of Persons by Police Officers’.
This states a strip-search must be conducted by at least two officers of the same sex as the detainee; with nobody of the opposite sex present.
But the police watchdog:
"...observed a woman being strip-searched in full view on the CCTV screens in the booking-in area of a custody suite."
There are strict rules for searching young people. But the inspectors found:
"Strip-searching of children was not always done in the presence of an appropriate adult as required by statutory guidance."
The rule book says detainees should never be totally naked. They should be allowed to remove the top half of their clothing first, then re-dress, before moving on to the lower half.
But in 2011, a 26-year old woman was held down whilst every item of her clothing was forcibly removed by police in Chelsea, with her bra cut from the front of her body. She was left naked in a cell.
That woman sued police and was awarded £37,000 in damages.
And that's the only way this abusive practice will be changed... if more people sue the police for discrimination, or for failing to follow statutory guidelines.
Look - fighting crime is a difficult business and I support decent police officers who work hard to keep our communities safe, but there's no evidence strip-searching - on this scale - works at discovering contraband. It's unnecessary and there's a significant risk of harassment, sexual abuse by police officers and traumatising children.
I'm Leon Hawthorne. Thanks for watching.