Met police apologise to woman nine years after 'sexist and dehumanising' strip search

26 January 2022, 13:37 | Updated: 26 January 2022, 15:46

By Megan Hinton

Scotland Yard has apologised to a woman nine years after officers used "sexist, derogatory and unacceptable language" during a strip-searched in an incident branded "appalling" by London's Mayor.

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It comes as shocking footage was released showing a sergeant ordering officers to treat Dr Konstancja Duff "like a terrorist" whilst staff laughed and called her "rank" commenting on the amount of body hair she had.

The philosophy lecturer was detained at a police station in the capital in 2013, having been arrested after trying to offer a 15-year-old a card with a list of legal advice during a stop-and-search on an east London estate.

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In footage obtained by the Guardian, Sgt Kurtis Howard - who was in charge of the custody area - told officers to show her "resistance is futile" and to search her 'by any means necessary."

He added: "Treat her like a terrorist. I don't care."

Dr Duff said during the search she was pinned to a cell floor by three officers with her hands cuffed and legs tied together and her clothes cut off with scissors.

Police officers can then be heard to say "was she rank?" and "her clothes stink".

In another clip, one officer references a "smell" and then a different officer says "Oh, it's her knickers".

Met police have apologised to a philosophy lecturer nine years after "dehumanising" strip-search
Met police apologise to woman nine years after "dehumanising" strip-search. Picture: Alamy

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Dr Duff, who said she had gone "limp as a form of passive resistance" when arrested, said the officers had spoken about her in a "really dehumanising way".

She told the Guardian: "It didn't surprise me at all really. It was absolutely obvious in the way that they treated me that that was the attitudes that they had.

"When you don't consent to what the police are doing to you - even when it's just palpably unjust - that is used to justify an escalation of force against you."

She said most people at the receiving end of such treatment "never get heard".

Adding: "So, even though talking about it is challenging, I feel lucky to be able to do that. They (the police) are being challenged on their racism, on their misogyny. So I hope that what I'm describing can be heard as part of that."

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said what had happened was "utterly disgraceful".

He tweeted: "I strongly condemn the derogatory and sexist actions towards Dr Duff. The Met are right to have apologised for this appalling incident. Women in our city must be able to trust the police."

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The Metropolitan Police said it had "sincerely apologised", when asked about the incident involving Dr Duff, and that an investigation into allegations of misconduct is ongoing.

In a statement, the force said: "In November 2021, the Met settled a claim following the arrest of a woman in Hackney in May 2013. We have sincerely apologised to the complainant for the language used while she was in custody and any distress caused.

"Following the conclusion of the civil claim, allegations of misconduct relating to these comments were referred to our Directorate of Professional Standards and are currently being investigated.

"This investigation remains ongoing."

Sergeant Howard was previously cleared of gross misconduct by a disciplinary panel in 2018 after claiming his actions were needed to asses any risk she posed to herself.

The force will also pay Dr Duff compensation for the horrific way she was treated at Stoke Newington police station in north-east London.