Child Q case ‘deeply distressing’, says Johnson

The 15-year-old was strip-searched by female Metropolitan Police officers at her school in 2020 without another adult present and while on her period.

Catherine Lough
Wednesday 23 March 2022 16:56
Boris Johnson was speaking in the House of Commons (Alberto Pezzali/PA)
Boris Johnson was speaking in the House of Commons (Alberto Pezzali/PA)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that reports of the strip search of Child Q were “deeply distressing and deeply concerning”.

Child Q was strip-searched by female Metropolitan Police officers at her school in 2020 without another adult present and in the knowledge that she was menstruating.

The 15-year-old had been wrongly suspected of carrying cannabis.

The Metropolitan Police have rightly apologised and the Independent Office for Police Conduct is investigating, and for that reason it would not be right to comment further

Boris Johnson

The case has sparked outrage from politicians and the public, with London mayor Sadiq Khan sharing his “dismay and disgust”, and equalities minister Kemi Badenoch calling it an “appalling incident”.

Protests took place during the weekend in London over the incident.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) launched its investigation following a complaint in May 2021, and said it had completed its inquiries and was finalising its report.

In the Commons on Wednesday, Labour’s Helen Hayes (Dulwich and West Norwood) asked Mr Johnson “whether he believes that the characteristic dither and delay of his Government in responding to this appalling case is remotely acceptable when it comes to the safety of children?”

Mr Johnson replied: “I think that is a completely ridiculous characterisation of the response of the Government because, of course, the reports of this incident are deeply distressing and deeply concerning.

“Everybody shares her feelings about that but the Metropolitan Police have rightly apologised and the IOPC is investigating, and for that reason it would not be right to comment further.”

On Tuesday, mayor of Hackney Philip Glanville – the borough where the incident took place – said that the headteacher of Child Q’s school should stand down.

Writing on social media, he said that he and Labour councillor and deputy mayor Anntoinette Bramble had “been in contact with the school that Child Q attended, seeking assurance on the actions that have been taken in response to this horrific incident, and on future work to rebuild trust with students, parents, and the wider community”.

“Since then we’ve sadly only heard more troubling reports from staff, families and young people disturbed about the situation and eager for change,” he said.

“We don’t say this lightly, but we feel we’ve no choice but to express our lack of confidence in the current leadership of the school.”

Any search of children in any circumstances is something that should be ... rigorously reviewed and thoroughly understood. The IOPC investigation will look in detail at the officers' actions

Met assistant commissioner Louisa Rolfe

He added that they both wished “to ask that the headteacher should stand down and allow that school and its community the new start it needs to heal from this traumatic experience and by doing so also fully recognise the traumatic impact on Child Q and her family”.

Facing questions about the incident from the London Assembly’s police and crime committee, Met assistant commissioner Louisa Rolfe said: “We’re very concerned about what’s happened here.

“The safeguarding review findings – which the Metropolitan Police were very keen to co-operate with and support fully – has identified the exceptional nature of this. But, in saying that, I’m not suggesting that this is something that we shouldn’t be incredibly concerned about, or that it’s an isolated matter.

“Of course, any search of children in any circumstances is something that should be … rigorously reviewed and thoroughly understood.

“The IOPC investigation will look in detail at the officers’ actions. The safeguarding review will pick up the actions of the school and their involvement in this matter.”

She said she thought it “would be unusual for response officers to be called to a school to deal with an incident of this nature” and the force instead expected its schools officers – who have a “higher level of training in safeguarding” – to “develop close relationships working with schools to address any concerns”.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in