Documents to download

As part of a standard stop and search, police officers can require those being searched to remove an outer coat, jacket, or gloves. Officers also have legal powers to require individuals to remove more clothing. This is commonly referred to as “strip searching”.

Strip searches are recognised as a highly intrusive interaction with the police that can be embarrassing and demeaning for those searched. Recent high profile cases involving strip search have brought heightened scrutiny on how police are using these powers which led to growing public debate about the negative, long-lasting and potentially traumatic impact these searches could have if not conducted sensitively and in line with guidance.

What is strip searching?

Strip searching does not necessarily denote nudity or exposure of intimate body parts, though it can involve this. Strip searches can range from the removal of a T-shirt to the removal of all clothing.

The police can conduct these searches under their stop and search powers. However, unlike with a standard search, officers must take the individual to another location from where they have been stopped to conduct the search out of public view. For less exposing strip searches, this may happen in a police vehicle. The police can also strip search individuals who have been detained in custody following their arrest.

Principles for conducting strip searches

Statutory guidance on the procedures and principles that police must follow to conduct strip searches legally are in PACE Code A and Annex A of PACE Code C.

The College of Policing (the body responsible for professional standards in policing) also maintains Authorised Professional Practice on stop and search,

Data on strip searches

There is no centrally held data on strip searches so there is limited evidence on how many the police conduct, the characteristics of those searched and reasons for searching them, and the outcome of strip searches (such as whether anything was found).

The Government confirmed in 2022 that police forces have been asked to provide data on strip searches to the Home Office on a voluntary basis. The first round of this data is expected to be published at the end of 2022.

Documents to download

Related posts