The harrowing case of Child Q shocked the nation and placed the Metropolitan Police under scrutiny, when it was revealed that in 2020, a 15-year-old girl was pulled out of her class by a teacher who called the police because she smelt of cannabis.
Upon arrival at the high school, two officers asked the girl – who was menstruating – to remove her clothes, take off her underwear, which had a sanitary pad, and expose her intimate body parts so they could search her. No cannabis was found.
There was no other adult present in the room even though according to the law children under 17 are required to have an appropriate adult present.
Data procured via a Freedom of Information request filed by Criminology researcher Tom Kemp shows that between 2016 – 2021, 9,088 children aged under 18 were strip searched. Of that number 2,360 were under the age of 16.
It is important to note that these were strip searches conducted after arrest. So, Child Q would not be included in this data as she was not arrested.
The Local Child Safeguarding Review regarding Child Q’s case stated that “racism was likely to be an influencing factor” in the strip search conducted.
Data from the review revealed that between 2020/21 25 children under the age of 18 were searched in Hackney for drugs, and out of the 25, 22 (88 per cent) came up negative for substances. Of the 25 children searched 15 (60 per cent) were Black.
National Officer of Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (BARAC) Hector Wesley said that this kind of behaviour has been going on since he was a child. Wesley found comfort in the reactions he has seen across social media at the horror of Child Q’s case and hopes that it is indicative of change.
He said: “You can’t turn your back on wrongdoing. This is absolutely appalling and there needs to be accountability.”
A statement from the Metropolitan Police said: “We work closely with communities in London and understand that stop-and-search can have a significant and lasting impact on someone, especially an MTIP (More Thorough Search where Intimate Parts are exposed) and strip-searches in custody.
“Every search must be lawful, proportionate, and necessary and carried out with respect, dignity and empathy.
“Sadly, different crimes tend to affect different groups more than others and it remains a tragic truth that knife crime and street violence in London disproportionately affects boys and young men, particularly of African-Caribbean heritage, both in terms of being victims and perpetrators.”
Child Q said in the review: “I feel like I’m locked in a box, and no one can see or cares that I just want to go back to feeling safe again, my box is collapsing around me, and no wants to help.”