Under certain circumstances, the police can conduct a strip search of detainees coming into custody. A strip search includes the removal of more than outer clothing and can include the exposure of intimate parts. These powers are closely regulated and the statutory guidance on searching can be found at PACE Code A (Gov.UK website) and Annexe A of PACE Code C (Gov.UK Website).

How the PCC oversees police use of strip search

There is significant focus on how police use this coercive power, and since the case of Child Q (Independent Office for Police Conduct Website) was highlighted there is an expectation that the police will more tightly regulate how and when they carry out these searches. Norfolk and Suffolk Independent Custody Visitors have taken part in quarterly scrutiny of strip search since 2019 and the success of the Panel has seen it recognised nationally as good practice – Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) and National Police Chiefs’ Council – The Introduction of Custody Detention Scrutiny Panels – A Guide for Police & Crime Commissioners and Chief Constables (APCC Website).

In addition to strip search, the Panel also review use of ‘rip-proof’ safety clothing and from April 2024 will be reviewing cases of juveniles remanded in custody following charge.

Purpose of the Independent Scrutiny Panel

  • To ensure that strip search powers used by officers of Norfolk and Suffolk Constabularies are lawfully conducted; recognising that these powers are useful in preventing harm, damage to property and interfering with evidence or evade escape.
  • To ensure strip search use is rationalised in an appropriate manner and documented correctly on custody records.
  • To improve the trust and confidence of the community in the way police conduct strip searches by being sensitive to the impact of these powers on individuals.
  • To reduce disproportionality between searches of communities in Norfolk and Suffolk.
  • To ensure the use of rip proof clothing by Norfolk and Suffolk Constabularies is appropriate, is proportionate and is documented accurately, whilst maintaining the custody priority of treating detainees with dignity.
  • To act as a constructive friend to the constabularies and provide advice and guidance to improve its performance around strip search.

Reporting Outcomes

Each quarter, a summary of the meeting is produced highlighting good practice and areas for improvement. It also looks at any disproportionality issues based on the ethnic backgrounds of the detainees searched.

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