A black teenage girl in Hackney was subjected to a ‘’humiliating, traumatising and shocking” strip search at her school by police officers and without an adult being present, a report has disclosed.
The review by the City and Hackney Safeguarding Children Partnership concluded that the strip search, carried out in 2020 because the teenager, then aged 15, was suspected of possessing cannabis, should have never happened and that there was “no reasonable justification for it.”
The report suggests that racism, “whether deliberate or not, was likely to have been an influencing factor”.
The Metropolitan Police apologised for what a senior officer described as the child’s “truly regrettable” treatment, which has been the subject of a separate Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) investigation, whose report is nearing completion.
The incident occurred after teachers reported a strong smell of cannabis from the student, known as Child Q, and believed she was carrying drugs. The school involved has not been identified.
Male and female Metropolitan Police Officers were called on scene, as the usual Safe Schools Police Officer was not available due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The teenager, who is now said to be suffering post traumatic stress as a result, was in the middle of an taking an exam when she was called out to be searched.
Despite Child Q denying the claims and a search of her bag, blazer, scarf, and shoes revealing nothing of significance, the strip search by one female officer was carried out.
Her mother was not notified, and the search was done with no adult attendance; the student was menstruating at the time and was asked to remove her sanitary product, the review found. She was returned to the exam after the search.
The Police and Criminal Evidence Act says an intimate search, if conducted, must be “necessary and reasonable, bearing in mind the object of the search”
In a joint statement, the Mayor of Hackney, Philip Glanville and Councillor Anntoinette Bramble, the Cabinet member for Education said the incident suggested ‘’adultification’’ which is where “Black and global majority children are held to adult standards, but their white peers are less likely to be.”
The statement continued: “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.”
“Lastly, we would like to extend our sincere gratitude to Child Q and her family for participating in what must have been an exceptionally difficult process for them all and have written to them today to offer our continued support.”
The Council and social workers are continuing to work alongside Child Q, her family and school to ensure this does not happen again. The student has also received psychological support.
The full review can be found here.