HUNDREDS of children are being stopped and searched by the region’s police forces every week, a critical parliamentary inquiry has revealed.

Forces have been accused of a “disproportionate” targeting of under-18s, with no official guidance for dealing with the “young and vulnerable”.

Some of those stopped and searched are under ten years of age, although only one local force – North Yorkshire – provided that statistic.

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And the alarm was raised over children being kept in police cells after arrest, alongside adults – causing “unnecessary harm and distress”.

Two forces in the region – Cleveland and North Yorkshire – do not have any custody suites with separate facilities for young people and adults.

The figures were uncovered by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children, which said stop and search was being used “disproportionately on young people”.

Baroness Massey of Darwen, the group’s chairwoman, said: “Many of these children will be in need of care and protection, possibly fleeing from sexual predators or gang violence.

“The police need to make sure that they don't see children as small adults and do more to ensure they always adopt an age appropriate response to every child.”

And Enver Solomon, of the National Children's Bureau (NCB), said: “Any child who comes into contact with the police should always be treated differently from an adult.

“For children who are at risk of exploitation, abuse or violence it is particularly important that the police know what steps to take to protect them and put their welfare first.”

The inquiry’s report shows that almost stop and searches are carried out on almost 20,000 under-18s in the North-East and North Yorkshire each year – or 375 each week.

The highest number was in Northumbria (60,642, between 2008 and 2013), followed by Cleveland (27,466, 2009-2013) and North Yorkshire (11,725, 2009-2013) and Durham (7,803, 2009-2013).

Only North Yorkshire provided a figure for the number of under-10s stopped and searched (17), The Northern Echo was told.

Durham (five out of six) and Northumbria (six out of seven) have better records for custody suites which do have separate facilities for young people and adults.

Cleveland Police was asked to respond to criticisms of its stop and search record and custody facilities, but said it was unable to do so.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) said it would consider the report’s recommendations, but defended its practices.

Commander Adrian Hanstock said: “Children are often stopped because of intelligence that they are being exploited by adults, including gang members, to carry drugs, weapons or get involved in other criminal activity.

"Stop and search that is intelligence-led, proportionate and carried out with professionalism and respect is an important tool in tackling crime especially knife, gun, gang crimes and terrorism.”