MORE than a third of people strip-searched by police in the county in the last three years were released without charge.
Out of 151 men and women strip-searched in custody in Flintshire between 2011 and 2013, 57 were released without charge – around 38 per cent.
The figures, released following a Freedom of Information request by the Leader, show that 16 children (aged between 12 and 17 years) arrested in Flintshire were strip-searched in the same period.
Seven of those children were released without charge.
There has been a marked increase in the use of the power since 2011, when just 26 people strip-searched in 2011. The figure jumped to 60 and 65 in 2012 and 2013 respectively.
North Wales Police said most of the searches were conducted when people were detained and were often done for reasons not connected with their arrest.
Some were done for the safety of the people in custody – or other people’s safety.
But Delyn MP David Hanson expressed shock at the figures and said he would be contacting the force on the issue.
He said: “The police do important work helping protect communities and stopping crime but we need to ensure they are using their powers responsibly and carefully.
"These figures paint a worrying picture of the rise in the use of strip searches.
“Police officers should be able to strip search people when absolutely necessary but each case and decision should be able to be fully accounted for to ensure public confidence in police operations.
“The strip search of children is an especially sensitive matter, so I’ll be raising this matter with the North Wales force and I hope they can offer some assurances of the necessity of these searches.”
Flintshire county Chief Inspector Dave Owens at Mold Police Station said: “The majority of the searches were conducted after the individual had been detained and often for reasons not connected with their arrest. For example, to ensure the safety of the detained person and others in the custody environment.
“In such circumstances it would not be expected that the search resulted in a charge, even if it led to an item being removed from the detainee.”
More men were strip-searched in the period, with 130 males and 21 females strip-searched.
Across the North Wales Police force area overall, 1,350 people were strip-searched, with 431 released without charge – equating to about 32 per cent.
In the same period, 144 people between the ages of 12 and 17 were strip searched, with 53 of those released without charge.
There has been a steady increase in the use of the power overall in North Wales, with 395 people strip searched in 2011, 453 in 2012 and 502 in 2013.
A total of 1,146 men and 204 women were strip searched in the period.
Sophie Khan, a legal director of Police Action Centre, a charity that advises people on their rights if they wish to pursue an action against the police, said she was especially concerned about the powers being used against children.
The solicitor-advocate, specialising in actions against the police, said: “The police need to look at this issue very carefully.
“There needs to be some linked-in thinking about whether it’s necessary to be strip searching children. There must be another reasonable method to try to restrain or detain them without having to go as far as strip searching them.
“The number of people being released without charge seem to show it’s being used too freely.”
Alyn and Deeside MP Mark Tami said: “I’m surprised at the increase in the use of this power. I’ll be taking this up with North Wales Police.”