Thousands of children have been subjected to stop and search by the PSNI

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Around 35,000 children have been subjected to stop and search by the PSNI, according to new research by QUB.

While the use of the powers fell by 75% in England in Wales between 2005 and 2016, their use increased by 74% in Northern Ireland over the same period.

The statistics were compiled by Queen's University academic John Topping and University of Central London's Ben Bradford ahead of a conference on young people, policing and stop and search powers at Queen's University.

Dr John Topping told the News Letter that children subjected to the process ranged from 10,11- years through to 19-years.

He added that a large number of those stopped were males in the 15-17 years age bracket.

A PSNI spokesman said: "PSNI is fully committed to ensuring the fair, effective and legitimate use of stop and search powers which are vital in helping us to prevent, detect and investigate crime.

"The PSNI do not regard arrest as the only positive outcome as a result of stop and search, the primary purpose of stop and search is to enable officers to allay or confirm their suspicions without exercising their power of arrest as outlined in The Police And Criminal Evidence (NI) Order 1989. Consideration is given to other disposals, such as community resolution notices and reports to PPS (speedy justice), therefore focusing on arrest is not an effective measure. These further disposals provide explanation as to why the arrest rate is lower when compared to England and Wales. In Northern Ireland, 24.9% of stop and search lead to an outcome compared to 30% in England and Wales (17/18)*. It should also be noted PSNI officers have additional powers available to them under the Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Act 2007, which impacts on the outcome rate in Northern Ireland.

"PSNI officers have a power to stop and search individuals where they have reasonable grounds to suspect an offence. Since April 2019, 749 young people were stopped and searched with ¾ being under Misuse of Drugs legislation. This is a proactive response to the increase in young people losing their lives whilst under the influence of drugs and a direct response to community concerns. There has been a 58% increase in drug related deaths in the last 10 years so the PSNI must be proactive in this area in order to keep people safe. It is also important to note there has been a 34% decrease in stop and search of children and young people over the last 5 years.

"It is acknowledged that the Northern Ireland context influences the stop and search numbers activity. There are different threshold levels to conduct a stop and search in Northern Ireland as there are throughout England and Wales. Legislatively the PSNI have a lower threshold of reasonable grounds whereas, with the introduction of The Best Use of Stop and Search Scheme in England and Wales, they work to a higher threshold. England and Wales have seen a sharp rise in knife crime which has prompted them to reconsider their policy on stop and search where there is now a noticeable rise. It should be noted the PSNI have a number of governance groups to ensure police powers are being used fairly and effectively, in particular stop and search and are regularly held to account by the NIPB."

*England and Wales have not published their up to date figures so unable to provide a comparison.