Met refers 7 more cases over child strip searches as police watchdog investigates

Met refers 7 more cases over child strip searches as police watchdog investigates
Cases are separate incidents involving 14 to 17-year-olds in custody and in wider community

Die Metropolitaanse polisie has made a further seven voluntary referrals to the police watchdog involving strip searches of children by officers.

The referrals relate to separate incidents, between December 2019 en Maart 2022, where children aged 14 aan 17 were either strip searched by officers in custody or were subject to more intimate searches in the wider community, Scotland Yard gesê.

Die Onafhanklike kantoor vir polisiedrag have already returned two of the referrals for internal investigation by the Met, and the watchdog is yet to announce whether it will investigate the remaining five cases, het die mag gesê.

The revelation comes after it emerged last week that four police officers had been served with gross misconduct notices in relation to the strip-searching a 15-year-old Black schoolgirl, identified only as Child Q, in a case which has sparked protests and widespread condemnation since news of it broke in March.

A month earlier, the watchdog confirmed it was investigating the strip-search of another child by the Metropolitan Police, and of another anonymous teenager given the pseudonym Olivia by the BBC.

Announcing the seven additional referrals, the Met’s Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor said: “ We understand the trauma and lasting impact these types of searches can have on people, especially young people, and understand the public’s concerns following several cases.”

The force has “already made a number of changes to the way we work to ensure that officers consider the child first and take a safeguarding approach,” Mr Taylor said, adding that the force is in the process of reviewing complaints received over the past three years in relation to strip searches involving children.

“Strip searches in custody and searches that expose more intimate parts outside of custody are important in ensuring the safety of the person being searched as well as protecting communities from drugs and weapons. But they must, natuurlik, be carried out appropriately and in line with our policy," hy het gesê.

“We have already confirmed three cases have been referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) for that important independent oversight of how police carried out those searches – these cases are known as ‘Child Q’, ‘Child A’ and ‘Olivia’.

“We have now made a further seven voluntary referrals to the IOPC.”

Both Child Q and Olivia are said to have been menstruating at the time of the strip-search, with the latter’s mother alleging that her 15-year-old daughter, who is autistic, later attempted suicide after her arrest in December 2020.

Olivia was handcuffed and had her underwear cut in front of male officers during the search, having allegedly been in custody for more than 20 hours before the search was prompted by the discovery of a sharpened stick and a small blade, which was for the purpose of self-harming, her mother said.

Net so, Child Q’s family members described her as changing from a “happy-go-lucky girl to a timid recluse that hardly speaks”, and said that the teenager has begun to self-harm.

A safeguarding verslag doen found racism was “likely” to have been a factor in the “unjustified” search of Child Q, which also took place in 2020 after she was wrongly suspected of carrying cannabis at school.

Scotland Yard said on Friday that since the publication of the safeguarding report, it has ensured that its officers and staff “have a refreshed understanding of the policy for conducting a ‘further search’ particularly around the requirement for an appropriate adult to be present”.

Officers have also been given “advice around dealing with schools, ensuring that children are treated as children and considering safeguarding for those under 18”, het die mag gesê, toevoeging: “‘Adultification’ is a subject we need to understand more and training is being delivered, in the first instance, to all frontline officers in Central East Command Unit, which covers Hackney and Tower Hamlets.”

The force said it has also introduced new measures meaning that – in addition to a conversation with a supervisor and the presence of an appropriate adult – an inspector must now give authority before a search takes place, while a report must be submitted “to ensure safeguarding the child is the priority”.

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