Met cops sorry after black school girl 'traumatised' in 'racially motivated' strip search

15 March 2022, 22:10 | Updated: 16 March 2022, 09:51

A black schoolgirl was strip searched by police while on her period
A black schoolgirl was strip searched by police while on her period. Picture: Alamy

By Megan Hinton

The Met police have been forced to apologise to a black schoolgirl who was strip-searched after being wrongly accused of carrying cannabis.

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The "traumatic" search by two officers took place at a Hackney secondary school in 2020 without another adult present and in the knowledge that the girl was menstruating.

A safeguarding review concluded that the strip search was unjustified and racism "was likely to have been an influencing factor".

According to the report, the impact on the secondary school pupil - referred to as Child Q - was "profound" and the repercussions "obvious and ongoing".

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.

Scotland Yard has apologised and said the incident "should never have happened".

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The Local Child Safeguarding Practice Review, published in March, was conducted by City & Hackney Safeguarding Children Partnership (CHSCP) following the incident at the end of 2020.

It said police arrived at the school after being called by teachers, who told the review they had been concerned the teenager had drugs in her possession because she smelt of cannabis.

She was taken to the medical room and strip searched by two female officers, while teachers remained outside.

During the ordeal her intimate body parts were exposed and she was made to take off her sanitary towel, bend over spread her legs and use her hands to spread her buttocks whilst coughing, according to the review.

'Black children continue to be perceived as being older, as not being human.'

No drugs were found.

She was then sent home by taxi, later sharing her distress with her mother.

Her family strongly believe the strip search was a racist incident "due to her being black and her extreme large head of locks".

The review found her experiences are "unlikely to have been the same" had she not been black.

It said it is highly likely that "adultification bias" was a factor - where adults perceive black children as being older than they are because they see them as more "streetwise".

It reads: "The disproportionate decision to strip search Child Q is unlikely to have been disconnected from her ethnicity and her background as a child growing up on an estate in Hackney."

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In a written statement to the review, the girl said she cannot go a single day "without wanting to scream, shout, cry or just give up".

She said: "Someone walked into the school, where I was supposed to feel safe, took me away from the people who were supposed to protect me and stripped me naked, while on my period.

Adding: "I don’t know if I’m going to feel normal again. But I do know this can't happen to anyone, ever again.

"All the people that allowed this to happen need to be held responsible. I need to know that the people who have done this to me can't do it to anyone else ever again. In fact so NO ONE else can do this to any other child in their care."

"Things need to change with all organisations involved. Even I can see that."

Whilst a family member of the girl said: "[Child Q] is traumatised and is now a shell of the bubbly child she was before this incident

"It is now being circulated in her school that she is the big-time drugs seller."

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'Many think racism is fine because that's how people behave.'

Hackney Council's Children's Services have asked for a report in six to nine months on progress made regarding the review's eight findings and 14 recommendations.

These include calls for the Department for Education to make more explicit reference to safeguarding in its guidance on searching, screening and confiscation, and for police guidance on strip-searching children to clearly outline the need for a focus on safeguarding.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: "This is a shocking and deeply disturbing case. I am extremely concerned by the findings of this report and no child should ever have to face a situation like this.

"It is entirely the right that the incident is being investigated by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) and I will be following the outcome of that closely.

"It is absolutely vital that our police service is able to gain the trust and confidence of all the communities it serves so that every Londoner, regardless of background or postcode can feel safe, protected and served."

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Councillor Anntoinette Bramble, deputy mayor and cabinet member for Hackney Council's Children's Services, and the mayor of Hackney, Philip Glanville, said they were "appalled" by all aspects of the review.

Detective Superintendent Dan Rutland of the Met's Central East Command said: "We recognise that the findings of the safeguarding review reflect this incident should never have happened.

"It is truly regrettable and on behalf of the Met Police I would like to apologise to the child concerned, her family and the wider community."