UK police frisk over 300 toddlers
UK officers are believed to have stopped and searched hundreds of under-fives over the last five years over fears they were carrying drugs or guns.
The development is thought to reflect a trend for adult or teenage criminals to conceal illegal items such as guns, knives and drugs on young children in a bid to avoid detection.
Forces across Britain confirmed they used the power on under-fives on 288 occasions.
The Metropolitan Police, Britain’s largest force, confirmed it had used stop and search on 182 toddlers, with the youngest child searched aged just two-years-old.
It included at least two searches where officers cited “reasonable suspicion” that drugs were hidden on the child and three searches for weapons.
Some criminals mistakenly believe that if they force children under 10 - the age of criminal responsibility - to carry illegal items on their behalf that they cannot be prosecuted.
In fact, although charges cannot be levelled against the infant, the police are usually able to bring a prosecution against the person who imposed the items upon their child, sibling or friend.
Greater Manchester Police was the second most prolific user of the frisking powers, with cases recorded against 45 toddlers.
In addition, stop and search was deployed against 612 children aged less than 10, the age of criminal responsibility, across England and Wales.
A Scotland Yard spokesman said: “Stop and search is a legitimate power that is used by the Metropolitan Police to protect Londoners, tackle crime and keep our streets safe."
“It is very unusual for under 10 year olds to be stopped and searched, however there are occasions when young children are in fact concerned in crime or anti-social behaviour and it is necessary for officers to carry out a search to prove, or as may be the case disprove, their involvement."
“In many cases, the young person has in fact been exploited by an adult and persuaded to carry or conceal items on their behalf, for example, and in such cases the child would be considered to be vulnerable and in need of protection rather than dealt with under the criminal code.”