Met refers eight more strip-searches of children to police watchdog

·3-min read
<span>Photograph: Guy Smallman/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Guy Smallman/Getty Images

The Metropolitan police have referred another eight cases of strip-searches of children for independent investigation.

There was outrage over the case of Child Q, a 15-year-old black girl who was strip-searched at school while menstruating, without an appropriate adult being present. The police apologised and a local council report said the child’s treatment was in part the result of discrimination.

The Met announced on Friday that it had referred a string of cases to the police watchdog, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), which said Britain’s biggest force had asked it to examine eight cases.

The Met said the cases “relate to separate incidents, between December 2019 and March 2022, where children aged 14 to 17 were strip-searched by officers in custody or subject to more intimate searches outside custody”.

The force did not say whether any of those took place in schools, nor give the ethnicities of the children, and said it was implementing reforms. It said the IOPC had already decided two cases should be investigated by the Met itself.

The cases newly referred to the IOPC come on top of three sent to the police watchdog that were already known about: the incident involving Child Q, which took place in a school in Hackney, east London, an incident involving a child known as Child A, and one involving a female known as “Olivia”.

The mayor of London has asked the Met to review all strip-searches of children and is writing to the policing inspectorate.

A spokesperson for the mayor of London said: “It is shocking and deeply disturbing that so many cases of children being strip-searched by the police have been referred to the IOPC. The mayor is extremely concerned by these cases and the Met have been asked by City Hall to conduct a review of all strip-searches of children to ensure lessons are learned.

“The mayor’s office for policing and crime will also be writing to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary to bring this matter to their attention.”

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The Met said among the changes were that an inspector would have to give approval before a child was subjected to a strip-search, and a safeguarding report would be created.

The Met also said: “We have reviewed the policy for ‘further searches’ for those aged under 18 and made changes. This is to assure ourselves the policy is appropriate and takes account of the safeguarding review for Child Q, and also that it recognises the fact a child in these circumstances may well be a vulnerable victim of exploitation by others involved in gangs, county lines and drug dealing.

“To ensure we have very clear control over this type of search, we have introduced new measures across the Met. As well as requiring a conversation with a supervisor and the presence of an appropriate adult, an inspector must now give authority before the search takes place to ensure appropriate oversight.”

The IOPC said: “We have determined that two of these referrals were suitable for local investigation by the MPS, which was finalising its own investigations into them at the point of referral. We are continuing to assess the available information to determine what further action may be required in respect of the others.”

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