Thank you for contacting me about Child Q.
As you know, the Local Child Safeguarding Review detailed the circumstances in which Child Q came to be strip-searched by Metropolitan Police Officers in school over the smell of cannabis after her teachers called the police. The details of the Review are deeply disturbing, and I do believe that new safeguarding protocols must be established. I also believe that the police officers and teachers should be accountable for their behaviour, a wish expressed by Child Q during her engagement with the Review.
I agree that we must ensure that Black children do not fall victim to discriminatory beliefs and biases. The Review concluded that racism was likely a factor in the decision to strip-search Child Q. Over the past five years, 33% of all strip-searches conducted by the Met were of Black people but Black people make up only 11% of Londoners. Significant race and ethnic disparities exist in Britain today, but the Government has failed to identify the root causes of these disparities. The College of Policing guidance and the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 on strip-searches are not clear enough. The smell of cannabis is not good grounds for a normal stop and search of an adult and so any new guidance should be clear that the search of Child Q should never have happened.
The Metropolitan Police Force has admitted that this incident should never have happened and is starting a pilot across Hackney and Tower Hamlets to require an inspector to give approval before a strip-search takes place. It has committed to reviewing its search policy and to ensuring that ‘adultification’ training is delivered to all front line officers in the area. I will follow developments and bear in mind the points you raise.
The Government has said it will consider the Independent Office for Police Conduct’s recommendations when the investigation into the conduct of the police officers is published. There are significant faults that this case has brought to light, in terms of data, guidance and training, and I will continue to support calls for the Government to tackle these now.
Thank you once again for contacting me about this issue.