Child Q: Strip searches of Hackney children to require inspector approval, police say

Deputy assistant commissioner Laurence Taylor, of frontline policing, told Hackney mayor Philip Glanville and other councillors that the search of the 15-year-old, known only as Child Q, was “more than regrettable” and the Met was “deeply affected by the depth of feeling”.

Strip searches of Hackney children will require the approval of a police inspector under a pilot scheme announced by the Met in the wake of outrage at the treatment of a black child.

Officers strip searched a 15-year-old black schoolgirl without an appropriate adult present and while knowing she was on her period at a school in Hackney in December 2020.

A damning safeguarding report, which identified the girl only as ‘Child Q’ found the search should never have happened and that racism could have been a factor in her treatment.

The Child Q protest in Hackney. Photo: LW

Freedom of Information requests by criminology researcher Tom Kemp found 172,093 strip searches were carried out by the Met between 2016 and 2021, with 9,088 on children.

This included 2,360 under the age of 16, with 35 on children aged just 12 or even younger.

While 57,733, or 33.5%, of all strip searches in the past five years were on black people, despite only 13% of Londoners being black.

Temi Mwale, director of youth project, 4Front, told LBC: “It is a degrading, humiliating, traumatising experience that nobody should actually have to endure, let alone children.

“It’s the type of shame where I don’t know if one can ever really truly recover from that.”

Activists have launched a campaign to end strip search, calling it “state sanctioned sexual assault”, with hundreds signing up in support so far.

Now a senior Met officer has outlined two schemes to improve safeguarding in the borough in a letter to Hackney Council.

Police at the Child Q protest in Hackney. Photo: LW

Deputy assistant commissioner Laurence Taylor, of frontline policing, told Hackney mayor Philip Glanville and other councillors that the search of the 15-year-old, known only as Child Q, was “more than regrettable” and the Met was “deeply affected by the depth of feeling”.

He told the council that “to ensure we have a very clear control over this type of search, we are introducing a pilot across Hackney and Tower Hamlets - or Central East Borough Command Unit (CE BCU) - for ‘more thorough intimate part’ searches”.

Officers conducting these searches on any child in the borough are required to get approval from a police inspector - in addition to a supervisor and having an appropriate adult present.

He said: “We will now require an inspector authority prior to the search taking place to ensure appropriate oversight of such an intrusive intervention.”

Police will also be required to complete a ‘Merlin’ report for all searches - a police database of children they come into contact with - “recognising our priority is safeguarding the child”.

“We will trial this in CE BCU for consideration of rolling it out more widely across London,” he added.

Child Q protest. Credit: LW

All children stopped and searched by police in which officers do not locate drugs, Hackney police safeguarding team will write to their parents to inform them of the police interaction.

DAC Taylor said this was also a “pilot scheme” and would “ensure we are transparent with parents in keeping them informed of events involving their child”.

Child Q, who is suing the police and the school, and is represented by lawyers at Bhatt Murphy, said in the report: “I can’t go a single day without wanting to scream, shout, cry or just give up.

“I don’t know if I’m going to feel normal again.”

Protests against strip searching under-18s and the presence of police in schools took place in Hackney and Stoke Newington.

Child Q protest. Credit: LW

While MPs and campaigners raised the case of Child Q in parliament and online.

In the letter dated March 31, 2022, DAC Taylor said: “We have apologised to the child concerned, her family and the wider community. We fully recognise the significant concerns that have been raised regarding the impact such a search can have on those involved.

“We acknowledge the search by female Met officers under Section 23 of the Misuse of Drugs Act did not follow policy.

“The officers are subject of an investigation by the IOPC of which we await the findings, including with regard to the allegation that the search was racially motivated.

“Whilst that investigation is underway it would be wrong of me to comment further on that aspect of the report.

“What I can say, however, is that the Met has been deeply affected by the depth of feeling generated by this incident and understand we need to address these ongoing concerns.”

In response, Mark Carroll, Hackney council chief executive, said: “Child Q should have been treated with dignity and respect. She should have been treated as the child she is.

“It is clear she was wholly failed and together we must all make sure this is never allowed to happen again.”

For more information on the campaign to end strip search, visit: https://www.endstripsearch.co.uk/