New Scotland Yard
Met Police strip searched nearly 1000 children in 2010 alone.Reuters

More than 4,600 juveniles and children have been strip-searched by Met Police over the past five years, according to figures.

Police stopped and searched 4,638 children between the ages of 10 and 16 between April 2008 and the end of 2013, according to figures obtained by the Guardian via a Freedom of Information request. Around a third of these children were released without charge.

The figures show that Met Police officers strip-searched more than that 134,000 people between 2009 and 2014; 10.5% of which were females and 3.5% were children.

During a strip search, officers ask the suspect to remove their clothes and can also involve body cavity searches.

In 2010, the number of strip searches involving children hit a peak of 990 in 2010, but police said there had been an 18% drop in the number of juvenile searches since this period.

Sophie Khan, legal director of Police Action Centre, a charity advising people on their rights when pursuing action against the police, described the number of searches on children as young as 10 as "disturbing".

She added: "Strip-searching is an inhuman and degrading experience and children should not be subjected to such treatment unless there is no other feasible method to detect crime available to the police."

A Met Police spokesperson defended the use of searches as "proportionate and appropriate".

She added: "The justification for a strip-search must be recorded on the custody record by the custody officer, the search must be conducted by at least two officers of the same gender as the detainee and the Metropolitan Police Service custody toolkit directs that the search must be supervised by the custody officer (gender permitting)."

"Strip-searching is a vital power in police custody not only to identify and seize evidence but also to ensure the safety and security of all detainees and staff.

"Each search must be based on an objective assessment of the need and proportionality to search the person to that extent. Legal safeguards are applied to ensure the welfare needs of the detainee are considered and met."