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IOPC calls for review of strip search powers after Child Q investigation

Four officers will be facing disciplinary proceedings for their actions during the Child Q incident.

The IOPC has concluded their investigation into the strip search of Child Q and has subsequently called for a “substantial review of policing powers” relating to strip searches of children.

The investigation into the strip search of Child Q began in May 2021 following a Met referral of complaints made on behalf of the child and the school.

The regulatory body has now confirmed that four Met officers will face disciplinary proceedings.

The body has said that three PCs should face a gross misconduct hearing to face allegations including; the decision to undertake the search was inappropriate, there was no consultation with a supervisor to obtain authorisation before carrying out the search, and that Child Q was discriminated against by officers because of her race and sex.

A fourth officer, a PC, will face a disciplinary meeting relating to there being no appropriate adult present during the search. They will also undergo the reflective practice review process to consider further learning opportunities.

The search of Child Q occurred on December 3 2020 after police were called to the school following suspicions by staff that Child Q was in possession of cannabis. This followed a search by staff of her bag and outer clothing where no drugs were found.

The child was subject to a search involving the removal of clothing by two female officers under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, while two male officers and school staff remained outside the room where the search took place. No drugs were found during the search.

A further recommendation from the IOPC is that the Met consider sending formal letters of apology to Child Q and her mother.

IOPC director Steve Noonan said: “The ‘strip search’ of Child Q, a 15-year-old girl, at her school in Hackney caused widespread concern. We have investigated the circumstances surrounding how this child was treated that day as fully as possible.

“We’ve found that four officers involved in the incident should face disciplinary proceedings for the parts they played. Ultimately it will be for that disciplinary panel to decide whether the allegations against them are proven.

"We will now be liaising with the Met Police around disciplinary proceedings. We’ve kept Child Q’s representatives and the officers involved updated throughout our investigation.”

Since the Met's referral of this incident, the IOPC has investigated four other incidents following referrals from the Met where children were strip searched in custody.

Director Steve Noonan said that as a result of the investigations, a series of recommendations have been identified – one area of learning being ensuring that officers across England and Wales understand their duties regarding the role of an appropriate adult during a strip search.

Learning recommendations had already been issued to the Met during the IOPC’s investigation.

The latest national recommendations are being consulted on and the IOPC said will be published in due course.

Mr Noonan added: “Any person subject to a search involving the exposure of intimate body parts is in a vulnerable position and they are entitled to be treated with respect and courtesy. While strip searches can be necessary for the safety of both the subjects and officers, it’s important that it’s only carried out when absolutely essential, particularly when used on children.”

Detective Chief Superintendent James Conway, who leads policing in Hackney and Tower Hamlets, said: “We have been clear in saying that the experience of Child Q should never have happened and was truly regrettable.

“While we have publicly apologised, I am also writing formally to Child Q and her family to say sorry for the trauma that we caused her.

“It will now be for the hearing panel to determine whether the matters against the three officers are proven and it is important we don’t pre-judge the outcome.”

He said that more senior levels of authorisation are now needed for strip searches, and that the number of such searches being carried out has been reduced because the force “had been overusing this power”.

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