Senior Met Police officer ‘sorry’ for trauma to Child Q

In 2020, Child Q – a Black girl of secondary school age – was strip searched by female Met police officers.

The Met said it “welcomes” the report and the work of its authors to “place the voice of children in such a prominent position within the findings”.

The search, which took place on school premises without an appropriate adult present, involved the exposure of the girl’s intimate body parts with the knowledge that she was menstruating.

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The search occurred because teachers believed Child Q “smelt strongly of cannabis”, said the report.

After searching the child’s bag, blazer, scarf and shoes and finding nothing of significance, teachers sought advice from the Safer Schools Police Officer who recommended the school call 101 and ask for a female officer to attend.

Two male and two female officers attended the school and Child Q was escorted to the medical room where she was strip searched.

No drugs were found during either the strip search or a strip search of the room in which Child Q had been waiting beforehand.

Detective Chief Superintendent James Conway, who leads policing in Hackney and Tower Hamlets, said: “The experience of Child Q should never have happened and I am sorry for the trauma that we caused her, and I am also sorry it took an event like this to highlight that we were overusing this type of strip search on children.

“The report correctly identifies the need for a child-centred approach and the crucial need for police to be careful and proportionate in the use of all of our powers.

“This is even more important for the most intrusive searches, such as these type of strip searches, and especially when involving children.

“We should not have needed an incident such as Child Q to check our approach.

“While we have made notable practical improvements, such as requiring more senior levels of authorisation, what happened to Child Q illustrates why public scrutiny is so crucial in checking how we use our powers.

“We should never tire of testing that we are policing with the consent of the public.”

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The Met noted that there are children in London being exploited to carry drugs and weapons for others.

The statement acknowledged that, while work across the Met had reduced the use of this type of search, there is more to do.

Conversations with communities, and young people in particular, was highlighted as a continued need to ensure policing reflects community needs.

The force said it was “absolutely committed to turning the Met around to be anti-discrimination in every way”.

It said it will not take some time to consider the update report and its findings and recommendations.

The Met voluntarily referred the incident involving Child Q to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) in May 2021. The IOPC is currently investigating.

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