Stop & Search Highlights ‘Systematic Targeting’ of Children & Young People

02 March 2021

Children and young people are being systematically targeted through the disproportionate use of stop and search powers in Northern Ireland. New statistics have revealed that children between the age of 13 and 17 make up only 6% of the population but account for 12% of all stop and searches in Northern Ireland, with rates reaching even higher in areas of deprivation. This reflects a continuing trend.

The disproportionate use of stop and search powers on children and young people is also shown to be hugely ineffective, with only 4% of stop and searches of 13 to 17 year olds leading to arrest. This is twice as ineffective when compared to other age groups and questions if the use of stop and search in many cases was appropriate and legal.

Claire Kemp, Policy Officer at the Children’s Law Centre said:

“These statistics yet again demonstrate a systematic targeting of children and young people with the ineffective use of stop and search powers. This is a continuing trend and is deeply troubling. The evidence would suggest that this is a policy decision on the part of the PSNI.

“When dealing with children and young people, the PSNI should be taking additional caution when using stop and search powers. Instead there is a very clear trend suggesting that children and young people are being targeted because of their age. They are more likely to be stopped, but this is less likely to lead to arrest.

“The practice is disproportionate and ineffective, but it goes even further than that. In areas of high deprivation, the rates are even more worrying and severely undermines children and young people’s confidence in the police. In the end, this has a negative impact on the safety and protection of children and young people who make up around 12% of all victims of crime. These young people rely on the police, but the disproportionate and inappropriate use of stop and search powers has the effect of making young people less trusting of police and therefore less likely to turn to them for help, placing them more at risk.”

If you want to know more about your stop and search rights, just ask REE, our legal advice bot for children and young people aged 13 – 17 at You can also request to speak to a live legal adviser.