Initimate Searches

Part of Orders of the Day — Police and Criminal Evidence Bill – in the House of Commons at 6:45 pm on 25th October 1984.

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Photo of Clare Short Clare Short , Birmingham, Ladywood 6:45 pm, 25th October 1984

I cannot let the amendment pass without objecting to the provisions that the Government are introducing. When one discusses the Bill with members of the public, women find the provisions that permit the police to organise intimate body searches the most objectionable.

When we discuss the Bill's provisions we tend to talk as though such searches will be made only when they are justified. But in the nature of the provision that is not so. When we say, "If there is reasonable suspicion this can be done," it follows inevitably that people will be searched who are not guilty and forcibly searched in the most intimate parts of their bodies when there is nothing incriminating to be found and they should not be searched in that way.

8.30 pm

I am grateful for the Minister's assurance that, in the case of drugs, with this widening of the power it will not be possible for the police to search an individual forcibly if a nurse or a doctor is unwilling to agree to it. But I fear that this will not be the protection that it may be in these days of massive unemployment and poverty, even in the medical profession and especially amongst nurses. I fear that there will always be someone willing to carry out such a search in return for the money that he or she will be paid.

In our inner cities especially, in the name of looking for drugs the police can and do stop and search every young black whom they feel like stopping and searching. It follows inevitably from this provision that the police will be able to threaten with an intimate body search every young black whom they pick up whenever they feel like doing so. That is what will flow from this provision.

The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) talked with relish, as he did in Committee, of the need for intimate body searches. In doing so he demonstrates the low level to which society is descending. I find it appalling that we happily and openly take powers to search forcibly the most intimate parts of the bodies of human beings. We do not appear to justify reluctantly the powers being taken and we hear from Government supporters calls for even more powers so that the police will be able to search forcibly anyone in these intimate places whenever they like.

There has to be some basic standard of decency. Probing around in the most intimate parts of the bodies of human beings or threatening such probes is indecent. We should not take this power. It is disgraceful and objectionable. I object to it strongly.