The Met police have faced further scrutiny from the public after forcibly strip-searching a 15-year-old girl in Hackney, London (2020). Child Q was suspected to be in possession of cannabis and was forcibly and illegally strip-searched whilst on her period.
These actions committed by the Met police have left the public questioning the organisation and their approach to enforcing the law. Since news of the report has come to light, the public has been left outraged at the shortcomings of the Met police, showcasing additional examples of racism within the force.
The report itself, conducted by the Local Child Safeguarding Practice Review on behalf of the CHSCP (City & Hackney Safeguarding Child Partnership) recalled how “no appropriate adult” was present whilst Child Q was removed from an exam and consequently strip-searched against her will. After a search of her belongings turned up no evidence.
According to the college of policing, their own guidance on the strip-search of children states that: “Where it is necessary to do so, regardless of the extent of the search, every effort should be made for the search to be conducted in a child-friendly location in the presence of an appropriate adult”. Her mother was not contacted and was only made aware of the incident when Child Q returned home.
Child Q was not found to be in possession of cannabis after the unlawful strip-search had taken place. The paramount statement from the report was that “the strip search of Child Q should never have happened and there was no reasonable justification for it”. The safeguarding report stated that the officers involved are now under investigation by the IOPC (Independent Office for Police Conduct). Child Q has issued a statement in light of the report, in which she declared her intentions to sue the Met police.
In an investigative interview with Child Q by the CHSCP, she stated: “Someone walked into the school, where I was supposed to feel safe, took me away from people who were supposed to protect me and stripped me naked, while on my period”. She recalled being violated due to being “held responsible for a smell”. At the end of her interview, she stated that “Things need to change with all organisations involved. Even I can see that.”
In response to the report, thousands have been vocal in their disappointment with the Met and their illegal management of the event. Hundreds of students protested at Petchey Academy, Hackney, on Friday 18th March; in anger at the school and the incident in question. Many made teary speeches to their peers, exclaiming that this should never have happened and how racism still runs rampant within schools. Especially those like Petchey Academy, which lies in a lower-income area.
Powerful videos have flooded TikTok, of students lining the halls and standing up against racism- in light of the report and the miscarriage of justice that Child Q endured at the hands of the police. The report has sparked feelings of anger and betrayal from the general public. Two days after the Petchey Academy protest, hundreds of supporters marched through North London, standing in solidarity with Child Q.
What is clear to the thousands of people who have heard Child Q’s story and made a stand against it, is that this isn’t just a case of a child having their trust and privacy violated. This happened to a black child in an impoverished borough. The apparent injustice of what Child Q endured has shone a light on the Met’s treatment of people of colour- and how prevalent racism still remains in this country.
Far more black people are subject to stop searches on the streets than white people and According to government statistics, between April 2019 and March 2020, there were 6 stops for every 1,000 white people, compared to 54 for every 1,000 black people.
An investigation by the IOPC revealed that there still is misogyny, racism and bullying within the Met police. “More is required”, they stated after the findings of a four-year-long investigation.
In response to Child Q and the lack of safeguarding regarding her case, the Met police have changed their strip-search policy in two London Boroughs: Hackney and Tower Hamlets. The pilot scheme aims to tackle adultification, where ethnic minority children are perceived as older by adults. This news comes after a report that the officers involved in the Child Q investigation have been removed from public-facing roles and placed on desk duty.