POLICE Scotland have carried out stop-searches on more than 300 young children since giving a commitment to end the controversial practice.
A total of 356 children have been stopped since June, when a senior officer told MSPs the tactic of searching those under the age of 12 was “indefensible”, and vowed to scrap it.
Figures obtained by the BBC show two-thirds of the searches were consensual, but 91 per cent recovered no items.
Police Scotland said stop-search was a “vital” tool in protecting young people, but critics said the force needed to explain its actions to the Scottish Parliament’s justice committee.
Liberal Democrat justice spokeswoman Alison McInnes said: “MSPs were told last June that the use of voluntary stop and searches on children under 12 was to be scrapped with immediate effect. Today we have learnt that hundreds of children are still being subject to the tactic. People deserve to know why Police Scotland haven’t kept their word on scrapping this unregulated and illiberal position.
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“I will be seeking to recall Assistant Chief Constable Wayne Mawson to the committee so that he can account for himself. If it is the case that this practice is continuing, it would be reasonable to question if the police misled parliament.”
Labour justice spokesman Hugh Henry questioned the role of watchdog the Scottish Police Authority. He said: “Police Scotland must come clean, it’s clear that the commitment given to the Scottish Parliament has not been honoured and the justice committee deserves an explanation.
“The question needs to be asked, what is the Scottish Police Authority doing about this? The SPA is supposed to hold Police Scotland to account. It failed on armed police officers and is failing yet again. It’s time the SPA started to do the job it has been given. The SNP government should step in if the SPA can’t or won’t act. Someone needs to hold Police Scotland to account for their actions.”
Since Mr Mawson’s appearance at the justice committee, stop-searches on children have increased from 45 in July, to 74 in November.
Between January and November 2014, children were most often searched for weapons (288), alcohol (152) and stolen property (125).
Assistant Chief Constable Nelson Telfer said: “These interventions are vital in protecting the health and wellbeing of young people and children, and parents would expect us to remove alcohol and other harmful items from their children, to keep them safe and prevent them becoming an offender or a victim.
“Last year, Police Scotland announced an undertaking to cease consensual searching of children less than 12 years of age.
“To support this decision, we have been reviewing searches of those aged between ages one and 11. This review is ongoing.”