LONDON, March 3 (UPI) -- The British government's promises to end routine child strip-searching often were broken as 43,000 incidents recently were recorded, rights activists said.
In only 275 of those searches of children in young offender institutions, secure children's homes and training centers over a 21-month period were illicit items found -- most of which were tobacco and none of which were drugs or knives, The Guardian of London reported Sunday.
The Youth Justice Board two years ago said the strip-searches of incarcerated children would halt, citing children's descriptions of the practice as causing "feelings of anger, humiliation and anxiety."
The Guardian reported it obtained information under the Freedom of Information Act that showed the youngest person to be strip-searched was 12, 48 percent of the children were from black and minority ethnic groups, and physical force was used 50 times during searches.
Carolyne Willow, a former national coordinator of the Children's Rights Alliance England, made the freedom of information request and said, "the practice of children being forced to expose their naked bodies to adults in authority (is) institutionalized child abuse."
"This matter is of such magnitude that ministers must amend the rules governing secure establishments to prescribe the extremely limited circumstances in which it would ever be permissible to make children in institutions remove their clothes and underwear," said Willow.