Police have used controversial stop and search powers on nearly 300 toddlers over the last five years, new figures have disclosed.

The development is thought to reflect a trend for adult or teenage criminals to conceal illegal items such as guns, knives and drugs on young children in a bid to avoid detection.

Forces across Britain confirmed they used the power on under-fives on 288 occasions.

It has previously emerged that police have used the tactics against children as young as two or three.

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