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Child Q to bring legal proceedings against Met Police and school

Child Q, a black pupil who was strip-searched by the police at school in December 2020 when she was 15, with no appropriate adult present, is to bring legal proceedings against the Metropolitan Police and the school.

A Local Child Safeguarding Practice Review this month concluded that Child Q should never have been strip searched.

Teachers had told the review that on the day of the search they believed Child Q was smelling strongly of cannabis and suspected that she might be carrying drugs. On questioning Child Q, she denied using or having any drugs in her possession. A search of her bag, blazer, scarf, and shoes revealed nothing of significance, the review said.

The review's findings included that:

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  • The decision to strip search Child Q was insufficiently attuned to her best interests or right to privacy.
  • School staff should have been more challenging to the police, seeking clarity about the actions they intended to take.
  • The application of the law and policy governing the strip searching of children can be variable and open to interpretation.
  • The absence of any specific requirement to seek parental consent when strip searching children undermines the principles of parental responsibility and partnership working with parents to safeguard children.
  • Having considered the context of the incident, the views of those engaged in the review and the impact felt by Child Q and her family, racism (whether deliberate or not) was likely to have been an influencing factor in the decision to undertake a strip search.

“Whilst school staff were right to respond to their concerns, the intervention that followed is considered by the review to have been disproportionate and ultimately harmful to Child Q,” the review said.

Last week the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) revealed that it had served three constables with notices advising them that they were under investigation for misconduct over their roles in either carrying out the strip search or involvement in supervising it.  

Child Q’s mother said: “We now look to the IOPC to make sure there is an effective investigation into the officers involved so they are individually held to account and face real consequences for what they have done.

"We expect the school to reflect on the findings of the City and Hackney Safeguarding Children Partnership report and take necessary action against all members of staff involved.”

Florence Cole, an Education & Community Care solicitor at Just for Kids Law, which is representing Child Q and her family on the education law aspects of the case, said: “From the education aspect, there is still ongoing correspondence with the school following the initial complaint launched by Child Q and her mother in 2020; in which they seek to hold the school to account and to ensure this never happens again to any other child.  

“No child should be subjected to such an ordeal, and it is hoped that the school will reflect and consider the detrimental effects and negative impact that adultification, disproportionate sanctioning and the over policing of black children has on their emotional, physical, and mental wellbeing, particularly in light of the City and Hackney Safeguarding Children Partnership report and its findings.

“All children should feel safe in schools and parents should feel reassured that their children will be kept safe; and that the correct policies, practice, and procedures are followed.”

Cole added: “This is an appalling, shocking case which illustrates wider problems in schools and communities about the treatment of black children which unfortunately is systemic; and the lack of safeguarding and the failure to recognise the ripple effects of trauma that follows, long after such an ordeal.

“As the government sets guidance for schools, we strongly urge it to learn from the failings in this case.”

Chanel Dolcy, a solicitor specialising in police misconduct and claims against public authorities at law firm Bhatt Murphy, confirmed that Child Q had launched civil proceedings against the Metropolitan Police and relevant school.

“She seeks to hold both institutions to account including through cast iron commitments to ensure this never happens again to any other child,” Dolcy said.

“The Metropolitan Police has seemed incapable of reform for generations, and it is difficult to say that will ever change. Nevertheless, this is a pivotal time for the Metropolitan Police as it awaits the appointment of a new Commissioner and so the family are calling on the Home Secretary and Mayor of London to ensure that only someone willing to declare publicly the persistence of institutional racism and institutional sexism in the Metropolitan Police is appointed.

“The family expect the new Commissioner to include affected communities in designing a plan to rid the force of these diseases and to affect that plan as a priority.”

On Twitter Mayor of Hackney Philip Glanville said he and the Deputy Mayor, Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, had been in contact with the school that Child Q attended, “seeking assurance on the actions that have been taken in response to this horrific incident, & on future work to rebuild trust with students, parents, & the wider community.”

He said: “Since then we've sadly only heard more troubling reports from staff, families & young people disturbed about the situation & eager for change. We don't say this lightly, but we feel we've no choice but to express our lack of confidence in the current leadership of the school.”

Mayor Glanville called on the headteacher “to stand down & allow that school & its community the new start it needs to heal from this traumatic experience & by doing so also fully recognise the traumatic impact on Child Q & her family”.

Commander Dr Alison Heydari of the Met’s Frontline Policing said: “While we await the findings of the IOPC investigation, we have already taken action to ensure that our officers and staff have a refreshed understanding of the policy for conducting a ‘further search’ and advice around dealing with schools, ensuring that children are treated as children.

“Alongside this, local officers have been briefed on the incident and are alive to community concerns.  The report and its recommendations have been shared with our Specialist Crime Review Group and our Continuous Policing Improvement Command to ensure that all opportunities for wider learning are acted on immediately.

“We are in full agreement with the Safeguarding Review that this incident should never have happened. It is truly regrettable and on behalf of the Met I reiterate our apology to the child concerned, her family and the wider community.”

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