Expert says black schoolgirl strip search scandal shows Met Police failed to treat teen 'as a child'

"They are not treated as children first," Sandra Paul told ITV News London.

The strip search of a London schoolgirl wrongly suspected of carrying cannabis may have been different had she not been black, according to a criminal lawyer.

The search by Metropolitan Police officers took place at the girl’s school without another adult present and in the knowledge that she was on her period.

Sandra Paul, who works at Kingsley Napley, said children from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities are often perceived by authorities as being more grown-up than other children - something known in research on the phenomenon as 'adultification.'

"In terms of treating children as children that's what the youth justice system and all the other agencies that are concerned with safeguarding are supposed to do," Sandra Paul told ITV News London.

"Sometimes the approach to minoritised children is different.

"So they are not treated as children first, there is a sense of adultification of behaviour, we treat them like small adults but with all the same expectations regarding what they should do, how mature their behaviour is, etc.

"What happened here was that they failed to treat this child as a child first and foremost - they treated her as someone prone to criminality.

"From the figures there are more minoritised children who are treated this way than other parts of the population," she explained.

Police have apologised to a the pupil searched by officers at a London school

An official safeguarding report from the City of London and Hackney Safeguarding Children Partnership reflected concerns of adultification, describing it as a form of bias.

It said minoritised children may be perceived as more streetwise, more grown up, less innocent and less vulnerable than other children, adding they "might be viewed primarily as a threat rather than as a child who needs support".

The report concluded the strip search should never have happened, was unjustified and racism “was likely to have been an influencing factor”.

Police have said sorry for the way the search was carried out adding that their actions were "truly regrettable".

A statement added: "It is wholly right that the actions of officers are held to scrutiny and we welcome this review which was commissioned by the statutory partnership with the support of police.

"We have already reminded local officers of the appropriate policies in place around carrying out searches in schools."

London mayor Sadiq Khan wrote on Thursday to the Independent Office for Police Conduct on Wednesday to argue that the officers involved should be charged with gross misconduct rather than misconduct, because of the review’s finding that racism had a role in the decision to conduct the strip search.

Mr Khan said he read the report with "dismay and disgust", adding: "I understand that in line with statutory guidance, allegations of discrimination would normally be considered at the level of gross misconduct rather than misconduct."