The girl’s family have now started civil legal proceedings against the police officers and police force for gross misconduct.
In December 2020, staff in a Hackney school called Metropolitan Police officers after they raised concerns that a pupil smelled of cannabis. This was after they searched the scarf, blazer, and bag of a 15-year-old black schoolgirl and found nothing.
Four police officers arrived soon after and two of them, both female, brought the young girl to the medical room where and they strip-searched her without contacting her mother for parental consent. While the incident was happening, teachers were waiting outside the medical room.
The experience was horrifying for the young girl as she was made to strip, bend over, and remove her sanitary towel (she was on her period). The officers also made her spread her legs and spread her buttocks using her hands. After subjecting her to a humiliating ordeal, the officers didn’t find any drugs.
It was a shocking and traumatising incident for a 15-year-old who wanted to do well in the “most important exams” of her life that day. The young girl, referred to as Child Q, said the experience devastated her and made her feel like she was locked inside a box that was about to collapse around her, with no one willing to help.
After learning about what happened, the City and Hackney Safeguarding Children Partnership started a Local Child Safeguarding Practice Review, which found no justification for what the police officers did. The review concluded that racism played a huge role in the strip search.
In the course of the review, Child Q shared how she felt in a written statement. She said that every day, she wanted to cry, shout, scream, or simply give up. She felt that she was judged according to “a smell.” The young girl also hoped that the people responsible for drastically changing her life would have to answer the consequences for what they did so nobody will have to go through the horrifying experience that she did.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct or IOPC also began an investigation on the incident. They sent notices to three officers involved in the act and informed them that they were under investigation. They were facing potential disciplinary offences for the way they treated the young girl.
Reactions from local leaders
Senior local council members criticised the Met Police for not following the safeguarding-first policy. Children’s services cabinet member and deputy mayor of Hackney Anntoinette Bramble and Hackney Mayor Philip Glanville released a joint statement saying how appalled they were that police officers conducted a strip search on a minor, in her school, and without parental consent. They also expressed disappointment in the school because they allowed such an incident to happen without any challenge.
Aside from indicating racism as an influential factor, the review also stressed the lack of action on the part of the school. The staff should have challenged the police on the absences of parental consent in performing a strip search on a minor. The school is supposed to be a place where Child Q felt safe and protected; instead, it became a place of horror for her.
As such, the Department for Education was asked to fully indicate safeguarding as part of their guide on confiscation, screening, and searching in school premises. A clear and specific outline on the need for safeguarding when police officers are to conduct strip searches on children was also stressed.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan also expressed his concern for the young girl, saying how shocked and disturbed he was with what happened. The mayor also promised to closely monitor the IOPC investigation.
For British Labour Party Member of Parliament Bell Ribeiro-Addy, the Met’s apology to Child Q and her family is simply a form of reputation management. According to her, the force has to completely reform how they engage with the black community before their apology can be believable.
The Met’s response
Speaking on behalf of the Metropolitan Police central east command, Detective Superintendent Dan Rutland acknowledged the review’s findings and agreed that the unlawful act shouldn’t have happened. He then apologised to Child Q, her family, and the community.
The detective did not mention any specific action on the offending officers but instead said that they welcomed the review and reminded them about the rules and policies on conducting searches in educational environments.
Child Q recently started legal proceedings against the Met and her school. The young girl gathered the strength and courage to begin the process after receiving messages of support from people across the world. Pupils were also seen protesting outside the Hackney school campus involved in the incident. Demonstrations and protests were also held in various parts of the UK, and prominent members of the black community reached out to the Met for decisive and immediate action so they will no longer feel unsafe.
All the attention and support has given Child Q the strength to go through the challenging legal proceedings. She now knows that she is not alone.
Police misconduct claims
Child Q’s case is one of the many police misconduct incidents in the UK. Prior to what happened to her, the Met was in the spotlight for making unacceptable, derogatory, and sexist language while strip-searching an academic. They apologised to their victim and paid the required compensation.
If you are a victim of police misconduct, report the incident to authorities right away and find a team of expert solicitors who can help you file a claim against the offending police officer/s. The panel of solicitors at ClaimExperts.co.uk are regulated, well-trained, and experienced to carry out police misconduct claims. They offer a No-Win-No-Fee guarantee and are committed to helping you win your claim. Get in touch with them now.
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