Met Police Apologise for Strip Search of 15 Year-old Schoolgirl That ‘Should Never Have Happened’
© SputnikMetropolitan Police
Metropolitan Police were called in to carry out a strip search of the girl by teachers at her secondary school in Hackney in late 2020. Staff had been concerned that the teenager might be carrying drugs as they could purportedly smell cannabis.
The Metropolitan Police has apologised for strip-searching a Black schoolgirl in 2020, leaving her “traumatised”.
In a statement, Detective Superintendent Dan Rutland of the Met’s Central East Command acknowledged that “that the findings of the safeguarding review reflect this incident should never have happened.”
“It is truly regrettable and on behalf of the Met Police I would like to apologise to the child concerned, her family and the wider community,” he stated.
Rutland emphasised that the department welcomed the review, “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. We are conscious that the IOPC are still completing their independent investigation, so further comment would be inappropriate at this time,” Rutland added.
‘Inexcusable Behaviours, Mindset’
The Met statement came after the Local Child Safeguarding Practice Review, carried out by the City & Hackney Safeguarding Children Partnership CHSCP) determined that the strip search at the London school in late 2020 had been unjustified, emphasising that racism “was likely to have been an influencing factor.”
The unnamed schoolgirl had been suspected by teachers at her Hackney secondary school of carrying drugs after they claimed she smelled of cannabis. After police were called out, the girl was taken to the medical room and strip-searched by two female officers. There were no teachers or other adults present.
© AP Photo / Jon SuperPupils sit in a classroom at a school in in Manchester, England, Monday March 8, 2021
Pupils sit in a classroom at a school in in Manchester, England, Monday March 8, 2021
© AP Photo / Jon Super
During the procedure, the girl, who was menstruating, was forced to remove her clothing and expose her intimate body parts, taking off her sanitary towel, according to the review. No drugs were found on the teen, who was sent home by taxi.
The distressed child shared her experience with her family, who claim the strip search was a racist incident.
After a review was triggered, the results, published in March, suggested that “adultification bias” was a factor in the incident, when adults perceive black children as being older than they are. The girl’s treatment would “unlikely to be the same” had she not been black, added:
“The disproportionate decision to strip search Child Q is unlikely to have been disconnected from her ethnicity and her background as a child growing up on an estate in Hackney.”
In a written statement to the review, the girl, who revealed that after the humiliating incident she feels like “wanting to scream, shout, cry or just give up” daily, added:
“All the people that allowed this to happen need to be held responsible. I was held responsible for a smell … but I’m just a child… I need to know that the people who have done this to me can’t do it to anyone else ever again, in fact so no one else can do this to any other child in their care.”
In a joint statement, councillor Anntoinette Bramble, deputy mayor and cabinet member for Hackney Council’s Children’s Services, and Hackney mayor, Philip Glanville, said they were “appalled” by what the review had revealed.
“Child Q was subjected to humiliating, traumatising and utterly shocking treatment by police officers – actions that were wholly disproportionate to the alleged incident to which they had been called. This is exacerbated by the fact that the strip search was carried out at school – a place where the child had an expectation of safety, security and care. Instead, she was let down by those who were meant to protect her,” reads their joint statement.
The officials added that Met police must “stop inexcusable behaviours and mindsets in order to properly serve all our diverse communities.”