Police watchdog investigates third case of child stripsearch

1st June, 2022 2:37 pm

A third case of a child being strip-searched by Scotland Yard officers faces scrutiny by the policing watchdog.

The latest case comes after two teenage girls, known as Child Q and Olivia, were strip-searched by officers in 2020 while they were menstruating.

The teenagers are among more than 13,000 young people to have been strip-searched in England and Wales since 2017, according to File on 4 on BBC Radio 4 last week.

Pressed on the matter last week Stephen House, the acting commissioner, told the London Assembly police and crime committee that there was a further case that he could not discuss.

Yesterday the Independent Office for Police Conduct said: “We can confirm that, following a complaint, we are investigating the strip-search of a child. Due to the sensitivities surrounding this matter, we cannot provide any further information at this time.”

The latest case follows Child Q, aged 15, and another anonymous teenager given the pseudonym Olivia by the BBC. Olivia’s mother told the broadcaster her daughter was arrested after being accused of robbery and, while in custody, was found to have a sharpened stick and a small blade, said to be for self-harming.

This prompted six officers to strip-search the autistic 15-year-old girl in front of male colleagues, leaving her traumatised. Her underwear was cut from her while she was menstruating, the BBC said. It later reported that she subsequently tried to kill herself.

In March the force apologised for strip-searching Child Q, who is black, at her school and without the presence of an adult, after she was wrongly accused of possession of cannabis. Her mother, whom the programme refers to as Lisa to protect her daughter’s anonymity, said the schoolgirl was absolutely distraught. “She said to me that they’d smashed her head on the cell floor,” she told the BBC.

A safeguarding review by the City and Hackney Safeguarding Children Partnership found that the incident was unjustified and said racism “was likely to have been an influencing factor”.

Olivia was strip-searched in December 2020, the same month as Child Q’s ordeal at her school, and the Met said it was investigating the incident.

In an interview with File on 4 which was broadcast on the programme, Laurence Taylor, a deputy assistant commissioner at the Met, said an internal investigation would “determine the appropriateness of the search and the way that it was conducted”.

Olivia had been out with some friends when they had a disagreement with two boys who called the police and alleged they were the victims of an attempted knife-point robbery. Olivia was searched by police at the scene and nothing was discovered but she and her friends were arrested.

At the time of Olivia’s arrest her mother was isolating with Covid-19, but says she spoke to the police on the phone and warned them her daughter had autism, learning difficulties and was self-harming.

After spending more than 20 hours in custody, Olivia was discovered to be in possession of a sharpened stick, said to have been for self-harming, which prompted six officers to carry out the search by force.

Taylor defended the force’s record, claiming that the disproportionality of searching young people from ethnically diverse backgrounds was based on “intelligence-led policing”.

Source: Met police strip searched child in third case to be criticised | News | The Times

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