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IOPC to meet with NPCC on strip search powers

The IOPC has said it is looking at options to work with other forces on strip search powers after case referrals from the Met.

In the wake of the Child Q case that hit media headlines earlier this year, the Met has made 13 further voluntary referrals to the IOPC relating to strip searches of children. 

Three cases relate to “Child Q”, “Child A” and “Child X” (also known as Olivia). The remaining 11 each refer to separate incidents occuring between December 2019 and May 2022 and involved children aged 14 to 17 who were strip searched by officers in custody, or were more intimately searched outside of custody. 

Two of the 11 referrals are subject to independent IOPC investigations, both concern 16 year old boys who were strip searched in custody without an appropriate adult.

Six cases have been referred back to the Met’s DPS and the final three are still awaiting a further decision by the IOPC, 

Off the back of the number of referrals that have come through, however, the IOPC has asked the force to ensure all strip searches are carried out in line with relevant legislation - including allowing children to have an appropriate adult present. 

The IOPC now plans to review a sample of other Met cases where complaints have been made but which have not necessarily been referred over. This work is planned to take place on-site rather than remotely. 

It is further calling for a meeting with NPCC leads to investigate whether the issues go beyond the Met.

In a letter to NPCC Complaints and Misconduct Lead, Craig Guildford, the Director General of the IOPC said: “What we do not have sight of is whether this is a wider issue than just in the MPS.

"In the past we have often seen something that may arise in the largest force, then raises questions and other forces also identify cases.” 

CC Guildford has said he welcomes the opportunity to work with partners in this area. 

Michael Lockwood hopes such a meeting would enable them to “discuss and address” increasing concerns over strip-searches of children that take place in custody. 

The IOPC told Police Oracle that it was not yet possible to give a timescale as to when their Child Q report might be published. 

IOPC director general, Michael Lockwood said: “Given the apparent delay in some of these cases being referred to us, we will now work with the MPS to review a sample of complaints that have not been referred to us, to establish whether the process is working as it should.

“I have proposed a meeting between ourselves and relevant policing leads to discuss how we can work together to ensure this important learning is shared and seek assurance that relevant policies are being applied in other forces.

He added: “By coming together in this way, I hope we can address increasing concerns about the use of strip-search powers in England and Wales, in order to provide assurance that they are only being used when absolutely essential.”

The Metropolitan Police said changes have now been made.

Since April officers have undergone additional training around child strip-searches, and that a BCU inspector now has to give permission for one to be carried out.

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