The Children's Commissioner for Wales has responded to our report on the strip-searching of children by Gwent Police officers.

Rocio Cifuentes, who was appointed as commissioner in April this year, said that she had already met with "senior police figures" since starting her post, and was focussed on ensuring that "the views and experiences of children in Wales are central in developing new policies and procedures."

Last week, The National reported that at least 78 children aged between 10-17 have been strip-searched by Gwent Police since 2018. You can read that report in full here.

The force's data, obtained via a Freedom of Information request, also suggested that Black and Minority Ethnic people are disproportionately strip-searched in the Gwent area.

The finding comes after months of heightened scrutiny on the practice of strip-searching minors, triggered by the high-profile cases of Child Q and Olivia - two BAME 15-year-old girls in London who were left traumatised after being forcibly strip-searched by Metropolitan Police officers in December 2020.

In light of this, The National approached the Children's Commissioner for her views on the matter.

Ms Cifuentes is charged with promoting and protecting children’s rights, and ensuring that Welsh Government policies and legislation benefit children and young people.

READ MORE: Stop and search: 'I'll just shut my mouth and let it happen'

She said: "Over previous years, my office has worked with all Welsh police forces to help them embed children's rights across their work, to help make sure that children receive the right care in every contact they have with the police.

"I've met with senior police figures across Wales since starting as Commissioner to keep building on this important work, and to make sure that the views and experiences of children in Wales are central in developing new policies and procedures.

"Those developments need to pay specific attention to the experiences of certain groups of young people, including young people from ethnic minorities, and consider children's rights in all situations, from day-to-day encounters with the police, to the most serious and sensitive issues.”

The National asked all four Welsh police forces to provide data on strip searches officers had carried out between 2018-2021, broken down by age, race, ethnic group, and location - along with the reason for the search. 

Only Gwent Police has, as yet, provided answers to the questions.

Just under 3,000 strip-searches were carried out in Gwent Police custody between 2018-2021, 75 of which were children aged between 11-17 years.

It was not made clear whether any of these were "intimate searches" - in which underwear is removed and orifices may be checked - as in the cases of Child Q and Olivia.

22 "partial" or "full" strip-searches were carried out by Gwent Police as part of a stop-and-search during the same time period.

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Of the 22, three were children aged between 10-17 years.

Black and Minority Ethnic people were more than four times more likely to be strip-searched as part of a stop-and-search, making up 5 percent of the local population but 21 percent of strip-searches performed in this context.

The force said it, and independent members of the community, scrutinise every stop and search and that it understands it currently searches more people from minority ethnic backgrounds and is committed to "closing that unacceptable gap".

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