Scarborough police officers have uncovered drugs and dangerous weapons on children who are so young that they can’t legally open a Facebook account.
A Scarborough News investigation has found that controversial stop and search powers have been used by front line police on under-12s a dozen times in recent years.
In the vast majority of cases, children searched by police had no concealed contraband on them – and hadn’t broken any law.
Our investigation comes in the same week the police watchdog published a damning report which claimed that forces across Britain were making “disappointingly slow progress” in improving their use of stop and search powers.
“Too many police leaders and officers still don’t seem to understand the impact that the use of powers to stop and search people can have on the lives of many people, especially young people,” said Stephen Otter, from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, which published the report.
“This is disappointing because getting it wrong can lead to resentment, anger and, in time, a loss of trust in the police.”
Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information act revealed that since 2011, of the dozen youngsters stopped between 2011-2014, one was found with an offensive weapon, another with drugs while one was found in possession of stolen goods.
North Yorkshire Police say none were arrested. A child can be charged with an offence once they reach the age of 10.
One Scarborough parent whose son claims they were stopped by police said she thinks police need to show a softer side around young children.
“My lad was in tears when he came home, as he thought he was a criminal – but he had nothing on him, and he’d done nothing wrong,” said the parent who has asked not to be named.
“The police see young children running about and these days they instantly think they are up to mischief, but there are real criminals – grown up criminals – committing real crimes that they should be bothering, not children.”
Data disclosed by North Yorkshire Police show that over half the recorded stop and searches on children took place in Scarborough itself.
However, children in Filey, Eastfield, Whitby and East Ayton have also been stopped.
Among the offences police suspected the children of committing were firearm offences and going equipped to steal.
The Scarborough News contacted North Yorkshire Police for a comment over our findings, but the force have yet to respond.
In Scotland, police vowed to scrap the “indefensible” practice of searching children, although figures show the practice is still taking place north of the border.
Facebook rules prohibit anybody aged under 13 from opening an account.