HC Deb 16 January 1984 vol 52 cc63-4W
Mr. McNamara

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many strip searches were carried out of women each month in Her Majesty's prisons and other detention centres in England and Wales for the past year; what were the reasons for the searches; and what type of prison contraband was discovered as a result of each search and how much in each case.

Mr. Hurd

A total figure for strip searches is not available. The following information is about strip searches of women and girls carried out during routine cell searches and special searches authorised by the governor, deputy governor or chief officer. It is not possible to provide figures solely for women prisoners, or of the type or amount of contraband discovered in each case.

1983 Strip searches carried out during routine cell searches Strip searches carried out during special searches Total
January 198 143 341
February 168 177 345
March 203 167 370
April 183 178 *361
May 210 297 507
June 197 196 393
July 153 166 319
August 174 182 356
September 213 222 435
October 144 185 329
November 188 181 369
December 186 227 413
Total 2,217 †12,328 †4,545
* In addition about 50 prisoners in one establishment were strip searched in an attempt to find a missing pair of scissors.
† The total includes seven special searches not included in the monthly figures.

In addition, standing instructions provide that every prisoner is to be strip searched on every reception into, and discharge from, a prison establishment and on being placed in the segregation unit.

Prisoners are strip searched to detect items of contraband, in particular weapons and drugs which cannot be detected by other means of searching. These searches also act as a deterrent against the concealment of such contraband. Amongst the items discovered have been drugs, weapons, illicit letters, unauthorised cash and property stolen from other prisoners.