Four MPS officers served with gross misconduct notices in Child Q investigation

Four officers from the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) are being investigated for gross misconduct after a 15-year-old black schoolgirl was strip-searched.

Jun 15, 2022
By PA Media

The teenager, referred to as Child Q, was strip-searched by female MPS officers in 2020 after she was wrongly suspected of carrying cannabis at her east London school.

Protests and condemnation erupted after it emerged the teenager was searched without another adult present and in the knowledge that she was menstruating.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) confirmed that four MPS officers have been served with gross misconduct notices in connection with its ongoing investigation into complaints that Child Q was inappropriately strip-searched.

Previously it was the case that the IOPC was investigating three police officers for misconduct.

A spokesman for the IOPC said: “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.

“Four constables have now been advised that they are 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.

“Any conduct matters identified, and their seriousness, are kept under review throughout and can be amended in light of any evidence gathered by the investigation team.”

The IOPC said its investigation is examining whether legislation, policies and procedures were followed during the strip-search of the child.

“We are looking at complaints that her mother was not given the opportunity to be present during the strip-search, and that there was no other appropriate adult present,” the IOPC spokesman said.

“We are also considering whether the child’s ethnicity played a part in the officers’ decision to strip-search her.”

The search of Child Q took place without another adult present and in the knowledge that she was menstruating, a safeguarding report found.

The local child safeguarding practice review, conducted by City and Hackney Safeguarding Children Partnership (CHSCP), concluded the strip-search should never have happened, was unjustified and racism “was likely to have been an influencing factor”.

In a statement the MPS said it was reviewing its policies and procedures and had brought in new measures for increased supervision of searches and closer liaison with parents.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor said: “We continue to fully co-operate with the IOPC investigation. “What happened to Child Q was a truly regrettable incident and we accept the findings of the Local Child Safeguarding Practice Review published in March that it should never have happened.  We have apologised publicly to the child, her family and the wider community. We do understand how much concern this incident has caused, and how distressed the girl has been.

“We have been working hard to listen to what our communities and partners are telling us about this incident and haven’t waited to look at how we might improve our practices. We have already made changes and continue to work hard to balance the policing need for this type of search with the considerable impact it can have on young people.”

Since Child Q, the MPS said it has ensured its officers and staff have a refreshed understanding of the policy for conducting a ‘further search’, particularly around the requirement for an appropriate adult to be present. “We have also given officers advice around dealing with schools, ensuring that children are treated as children and considering safeguarding for those under 18. ‘Adultification’ is a subject we need to understand more and training will be delivered, in the first instance, to all frontline officers in Central East Command Unit, which covers Hackney and Tower Hamlets.

“More widely we are reviewing the policy for ‘further searches’ for those aged under 18. This is to assure ourselves the policy is appropriate and takes account of the safeguarding review for Child Q, and also that it recognises the fact a child in these circumstances may well be a vulnerable victim of exploitation by others involved in gangs, County Lines and drug dealing.

“To ensure we have very clear control over this type of search, we have introduced a pilot across the Met. As well as requiring a conversation with a supervisor and the presence of an appropriate adult, an inspector must now give authority prior to the search taking place to ensure appropriate oversight. We will also ensure a Merlin report is submitted for all such searches, to ensure safeguarding the child is the priority. The Merlin system contains information about a child coming to police attention.

“After any drugs search on a child where nothing is found, Hackney’s Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) will run a pilot scheme where a letter is sent to the parents of the stopped child informing them of what has happened. This is to keep parents updated about significant incidents involving their child, and help safeguarding measures by recording potential opportunities for positive intervention.

“We are also creating a child centric stop and search review panel involving the community and partner agencies. The panel will scrutinise search activity, review body worn video, critically evaluate whether there has been a ‘safeguarding first’ approach and highlight and raise any identified adultification.”

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