Child Q: Strip-search Met Police officers facing gross misconduct case

  • Published
People protesting the teenager's treatment outside an east London police station
Image caption,
The Met Police's treatment of the pupil has provoked anger

Four police officers are being investigated for gross misconduct as part of an inquiry into a 15-year-old being strip-searched while at school.

Child Q was taken to the east London school's medical room and searched by two female Met officers, while teachers were outside, in December 2020.

No other adult was present and her parents were not contacted.

The police watchdog said it received a voluntary referral from the Met on 6 May 2021.

The Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) said it began its investigation five days later. It then reallocated the case in March 2022 as the original lead investigator left and their replacement had to carry out a detailed review of the evidence and previous decisions. 

It said this process identified further lines of inquiry, leading for it to "escalate its investigation from one of misconduct to gross misconduct".

A spokesperson said: "We can confirm that four Metropolitan Police Service officers have been served with gross misconduct notices by us in connection with our ongoing investigation into complaints that Child Q was inappropriately strip-searched.

"As with all of our investigations we continually review the evidence and lines of inquiry as the investigation progresses. As a part of this, matters were identified which required new notices of investigation to be served on officers."

The officers were being investigated for "potential breaches of the police standards of professional behaviour at the level of gross misconduct, which does not necessarily mean that disciplinary proceedings will follow", the IOPC said.

It added it was examining whether legislation, policies and procedures were followed during the strip-search as well as complaints that Child Q's mother was not given the opportunity to be present and that no other appropriate adult was present.

"We are also considering whether the child's ethnicity played a part in the officers' decision to strip-search her," the spokesperson added.

When asked why it took several months between the incident occurring and the Met Police referring itself to the IOPC, the force said: "Information was provided to the child's family to support any complaint they wish to make against the Metropolitan Police Service.

"A complaint was subsequently received and was referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct in May 2021 for investigation."

Media caption,

Labour MP Florence Eshalomi: "When my daughter is 15, I hope this issue still isn't happening but I'm worried it will"

The girl has previously said she "can't go a single day without wanting to scream, shout, cry or just give up" since the search.

She was removed from a mock exam after staff at the school in Hackney thought she smelled of cannabis.

Her intimate body parts were exposed and she was made to take off her sanitary towel, according to the review. No drugs were found.

A report found racism was "likely" to have been a factor in the "unjustified" search of the girl, known as Child Q.

At a special scrutiny meeting into the scandal at Hackney Town Hall on Monday evening, Hackney's borough commander Det Ch Supt Marcus Barnett told councillors: "It is beyond regrettable that it ever happened to a young child."

Councillor Anntoinette Bramble, Hackney's deputy mayor with responsibility for education, young people and children's social care, said: "An indefensible, inconceivable thing happened. In 2022, we are still judged by the colour of our skins."

Local MP Diane Abbott said: "I am glad the IOPC has escalated the investigation, but the community is very concerned about how long the investigation is taking."

If gross misconduct is proved, the police officers could be dismissed from the force. A hearing will take place in the coming months.

Lawyers acting on behalf of Child Q, who is suing both the school and the Met Police, have asked for the school not to be named in the media.

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