Child Q: Four Met Police officers investigated after strip-searching Black schoolgirl

Teenager was searched by police who knew she was menstruating and wrongly suspected her of carrying cannabis

Nadine White
Race Correspondent
Wednesday 15 June 2022 11:50
<p>A safeguarding report found racism was “likely” to have been a factor in the “unjustified” search of the teenager</p>

A safeguarding report found racism was “likely” to have been a factor in the “unjustified” search of the teenager

Four Metropolitan Police officers are being investigated after strip-searching a 15-year-old Black schoolgirl.

The officers have each been served with gross misconduct notices in relation to the incident which happened in 2020.

Known as Child Q, the teenager was searched by two female officers at a school in east London, without any other adults present and in the knowledge that she was menstruating. The girl had been wrongly suspected of carrying cannabis.

A spokesperson for the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) said: “Four constables have now been advised that they are being investigated for potential breaches of the police standards of professional behaviour at the level of gross misconduct, which does not necessarily mean that disciplinary proceedings will follow.”

There have been protests and political condemnation since news of the strip-search emerged in March.

Following the “traumatic” incident, Child Q’s family members described her as changing from a “happy-go-lucky girl to a timid recluse that hardly speaks”, who now self-harms and needs therapy. They’re currently pursuing legal action against the police and school.

A safeguarding report found racism was “likely” to have been a factor in the “unjustified” search of the teenager.

At a special scrutiny meeting into the scandal at Hackney Town Hall on Monday evening, Hackney’s borough commander Detective Chief Superintendent Marcus Barnett told councillors: “It is beyond regrettable that it ever happened to a young child.”

The IOPC launched its investigation following a complaint in May 2021.

Metropolitan Police data, first reported by LBC, shows that five children are strip-searched every day on average by officers in London.

Out of 5,279 children searched after an arrest in the past three years, 3,939 – around 75 per cent – were from ethnically diverse backgrounds.

The data did not cover children who were not arrested but still strip-searched – like Child Q – so it is likely the number in the capital is even higher.

Last month, the watchdog also confirmed it is investigating the strip-search of another child by the Metropolitan Police, following the case of Child Q and another anonymous teenager given the pseudonym Olivia by the BBC.

Olivia’s mother told the broadcaster that her daughter was arrested after being accused of robbery, and while in custody was found to have a sharpened stick and a small blade, said to be for self-harming.

This prompted six officers to strip-search the autistic 15-year-old in front of male colleagues, leaving her traumatised, and the BBC reported that she later tried to kill herself.

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