Child Q strip search prompts Metropolitan Police policy change

A public outcry over the strip-searching of a child by police at her school has led the Metropolitan Police to change to its policy on the practice.

A police inspector will need to give permission before any child can be strip-searched, in new measures being piloted in Hackney and Tower Hamlets.

The force will then consider expanding the measures across the capital.

The action will ensure “appropriate oversight of such an intrusive intervention”, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor said.

In addition, a conversation with a supervisor should take place and an “appropriate adult” should be present.

The case of Child Q – a 15-year-old Black schoolgirl who was strip searched by police while on her period after being wrongly suspected of carrying cannabis – has drawn outrage from the public and politicians.

The search, by female Metropolitan Police officers, took place in 2020 without another adult present and in the knowledge that she was menstruating, a safeguarding report found.

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The Local Child Safeguarding Practice Review, conducted by City & Hackney Safeguarding Children Partnership (CHSCP), concluded the strip-search should never have happened, was unjustified and racism “was likely to have been an influencing factor”.

Three police officers have been investigated for misconduct by the Independent Office for Police Conduct, which is finalising its report.

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

In a letter to the Mayor of Hackney, Mr Taylor said the force has been “deeply affected by the depth of feeling generated by this incident and understand that we need to do something different to address these ongoing concerns”.

He said: “I recognise that the events surrounding Child Q have, understandably, generated high emotion and anger and I want to listen and respond to communities to build trust where it has been lost.”

He said the force has not been “waiting for reports to be written” and has requested a review of the protocol for officers working in schools.

And he said Police Encounter Panels have been set up in the boroughs to review and scrutinise incidents of community concern as quickly as possible after the event.

It has also committed to ensure that “adultification” training is delivered to all frontline officers in the boroughs, he said.

It is highly likely that adultification – where Black children are perceived as older – was a factor in the Child Q case, the safeguarding review found.