Criminal suspects are hiding stolen property and drugs in the clothing of young children in a bid to avoid being arrested, according to Yorkshire’s largest police force.
New figures have revealed that West Yorkshire police carried out a stop and search on two children under the age of ten in the first six months of this year.
Nationwide, at least 35 under-10s were stopped and searched between December 2014 and June 2015, eight of them by Metropolitan Police officers in London.
According to temporary assistant chief constable Angela Williams: “In keeping our communities safe, it is very occasionally necessary to stop and search children and young people - including those under the age of criminal responsibility.
“We do see incidences where stolen property or illegal substances are secreted on a child by an adult to try and avoid detection.
“Any stop search of a child will be carried out in a sensitive manner taking into account the age and any other vulnerabilities the child may have.”
The age of criminal responsibility in England and Wales is 10 years old, meaning children under that age can’t be arrested or charged with a crime.
West Yorkshire Police also stopped and searched 1,557 children aged 10 to 17 in the first six months of this year, according to new data on the police.uk website.
Elsewhere in the region, North Yorkshire Police carried out 505 stop and searches on children aged 10 to 17 but none on under-10s.
South Yorkshire Police did not provide a breakdown by age. Humberside used the powers on 97 children aged 10 to 17, but only provided figures for searches between December 2014 and February 2015.
West Yorkshire Police is reported to have the highest proportion in the country of stop and searches that resulted in no further action, with 85 per cent of searches ending without an arrest, summons or other police action.
There are just two forces, Kent and Dyfed Powys in Wales, out of 40 where the majority of stop and searches result in police action. Four forces did not provide data for the website.