Child Q: Council leader urges Met Police to admit racism as force changes strip-search policy

A London council has called on the Metropolitan Police to admit to being institutionally racist after officers strip-searched a black shoolgirl who was wrongly suspected of possessing cannabis.

Mark Carroll, the executive of Hackney Council, said Child Q was “wholly failed” by the force and a case like hers must “never be allowed to happen again” after a report found police who searched the girl were likely influenced by racism.

In response to the case, police are set to launch a pilot scheme in Hackney and neighboring Tower Hamlets requiring police officers to get permission from an inspector before strip-searching a child. The Met will later consider expanding it across London.

The Met’s deputy assistant commissioner, Laurence Taylor, said approval from a superior will ensure “appropriate oversight of such an intrusive intervention”.

Police are currently required to have a conversation with a supervisor and have an “appropriate adult” present before a strip-search.

The case of Child Q – a 15-year-old black schoolgirl who was strip searched 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.

The Local Child Safeguarding Practice Review, conducted by City and 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”.

It was found that adultification – where black children are perceived as older – was highly likely to have influenced the officers’ actions.

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

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

In a letter to the Mayor of Hackney, Mr Taylor said the force understood “that we need to do something different to address these ongoing concerns”.

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.

Police Encounter Panels were set up in the Hackney and Tower Hamlets to deal with community concern as quickly as possible after the event, he said.

And all frontline officers in the boroughs will go through “adultification” training, he said.

Mr Carroll at Hackney Council replied to Mr Taylor on Friday confirming that the council accepted the Review Panel’s finding that Child Q was “wholly failed”.

He wrote: “As you recognise, Child Q should have been treated with dignity and respect.

“She should have been treated as the child she is: her rights as a child safeguarded; and her position of her as a child protected by the adults around her that day.

“It is clear that she was wholly failed, and together we must make sure that this is never allowed to happen again.

“Hackney Council accepts the Review Panel’s finding that this appalling and humiliating experience was ‘likely influenced’ by racism.”

He said the Child Q case proved that the conclusion of the Stephen Lawrence report that the Met was guilty of “prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping” when dealing with people from minority ethnic backgrounds was still relevant 23 years later.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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