FIGURES which revealed children as young as 12 have been strip-searched by West Yorkshire Police have been blasted by a campaign organisation.

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the force revealed 285 youngsters – including two 12-year-old boys - were subjected to this type of search between April 2017 and the end of March this year.

A strip search is a search involving the removal of more than outer clothing and can take place under stop and search powers and following arrest, in a police custody setting.

West Yorkshire Police said the welfare and safeguarding of juveniles is a “priority” but StopWatch, an organisation which campaigns against “the over-policing of marginalised communities” raised serious concerns.

Dr Deborah Sangster, who is originally from Bradford and is executive director of StopWatch, said: “I would say it’s tantamount to young people being molested by police.”

When asked about the impact of strip searches, she said: “People are traumatised. Stop and search is traumatising anyway, strip-searching is doubly traumatising.

“It’s an invasion of your person. It’s molestation, they are being molested by the state.”

She said she felt the figures, when looked at in the context of the ethnic make-up of West Yorkshire, show a disproportionate application of powers and described the situation as a “disgrace”.

“I would say these figures should be very worrying for the local constabulary,” she said and added they can’t be “swept under the carpet”.

“How can this not negatively impact community relations?”

“It’s a pattern that’s reflected across the country, but we hoped for better in West Yorkshire.

“I’m very disappointed and hurt for the communities who are impacted.”

A West Yorkshire Police spokesperson said: “Police Officers possess powers which are wide-ranging, but necessary, in order to uphold the law and protect the public.

“That is why police activity is rightly subject to close scrutiny, both at a supervisory level within the organisation and independently by the various bodies who hold us to account.

“We understand that people may have concerns around the issue of strip-searches, but it is important to understand that such searches happen for a reason.

“The vast majority of children strip-searched were under arrest whilst this occurred. West Yorkshire Police is responsible for the welfare of all individuals in its custody and such searches are often essential to ensure someone is not in possession of items which may present a danger to themselves or custody staff.

“Of the small number searched elsewhere than a police custody area, none were below the age of 15.”