Met Police apologises for strip-search of Hackney schoolgirl

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Scotland Yard
Image caption,
The Met has apologised and admitted the incident should not have happened

A black schoolgirl was strip-searched by police after being wrongly suspected of carrying cannabis.

The "traumatic" search by Metropolitan Police officers took place without another adult present at the girl's secondary school in Hackney in 2020.

A safeguarding report on the incident concluded it was unjustified and racism was "likely" to have been a factor.

Scotland Yard said the officers' actions were "regrettable" and it "should never have happened".

According to the report, the impact on the 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.

Intimate body parts exposed

Police were called to a school in Hackney at the end of 2020 by teachers, who told investigators 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, according to the review. No drugs were found.

Her family strongly believe the strip search was a racist incident, and the review found her experiences are "unlikely to have been the same" had she not been black.

'Adultification bias'

The Local Child Safeguarding Practice Review, published in March, was conducted by City & Hackney Safeguarding Children Partnership (CHSCP) .

It said it was 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".

In a written statement to the review, the girl said she wanted everyone who allowed the strip search to happen to "be held responsible".

She said: "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."

Investigators found that school staff deferred to the police's authority and "should have been more challenging".

This has been accepted by the school, with one staff member saying: "I have never known, nor would I condone, a strip-search of a young person on a school site."

'Deeply disturbing case'

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) was now investigating, the Met confirmed.

Det Supt 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."

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said this was a "deeply disturbing case" that no child should face and he would be "closely following" the IOPC review.

Hackney Council's mayor and deputy mayor have condemned the "humiliating, traumatising and utterly shocking treatment" by police officers.

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

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