Black girl strip-searched at school 'can't go a day without wanting to give up'

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A traumatised black girl who police “stripped naked” and searched for cannabis while at school and on her period says she “can't go a day without wanting to give up”.

The 15-year-old girl, known as Child Q, was strip-searched by Metropolitan Police officers who wrongly suspected her of carrying cannabis at her school in Hackney, east London.

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Both her school and the Met are facing a public outcry – with protesters gathering outside Stoke Newington Police station yesterday to demand justice for the youngster.

Since Child Q's “traumatic” ordeal was made public, Scotland Yard has issued an apology for the “truly regrettable” incident which they confirm should not have happened, MyLondon reports.

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Yesterday the girl – who is taking civil action against the Met – issued a statement through her lawyers thanking the “thousands of people across the world” for their support and saying she knows “I am not alone”.

As part of the Local Child Safeguarding Practice Review – which concluded racism was “likely to have been an influencing factor” in the strip-search – Child Q recalled the events of December 3, 2020, in harrowing detail.

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Child Q said: “Someone walked into the school, where I was supposed to feel safe, took me away from the people who were supposed to protect me and stripped me naked, while on my period.

Black girl strip-searched at school 'can't go a day without wanting to give up'

Child Q said she “can't go a single day without wanting to scream, shout, cry or just give up” ( Image: Getty Images)

“On the top of preparing for the most important exams of my life. I can't go a single day without wanting to scream, shout, cry or just give up.

“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-one wants to help.

“I don’t know if I’m going to feel normal again. I don’t know how long it will take to repair my box. But I do know this can't happen to anyone, ever again.

“All the people that allowed this to happen need to be held responsible. I was held responsible for a smell. But I’m just a child.

Black girl strip-searched at school 'can't go a day without wanting to give up'

Hackney Cop Watch protesters block the road in a protest at Stoke Newington Police Station after reports emerged of 15-year-old Child Q's “traumatic” strip-search ( Image: Alamy Live News.)

“The main thing I need is space and time to understand what has happened to me and exactly how I feel about it and getting past this exam season.

“I need to know that the people who have done this to me can't do it to anyone else ever again. In fact so no one else can do this to any other child in their care.

”Things need to change with all organisations involved. Even I can see that.”

The “traumatic” search took place on December 3, 2020, without another adult present and in the knowledge that she was menstruating, the safeguarding report, which was published this week, concluded.

Officers were called by teachers who said that they were concerned that the teenager had drugs in her possession because she smelt of cannabis. Child Q was taken to a medical room and strip-searched by two female officers while teachers remained outside.

The girl's intimate body parts were exposed and she was made to take off her sanitary towel. No drugs were found. She was then sent home by taxi, later sharing her distress with her mother.

Black girl strip-searched at school 'can't go a day without wanting to give up'

An investigation found that racism was likely a factor leading to Child Q's search ( Image: Alamy Live News.)

Investigators concluded that the impact on the secondary school pupil was “profound” and the repercussions “obvious and ongoing”. Family members described her as changing from a “happy-go-lucky girl to a timid recluse that hardly speaks”, who now self-harms and needs therapy.

Her family strongly believe the strip search was a racist incident, and the review found her experiences are “unlikely to have been the same” had she not been black. It said it is highly likely that “adultification bias” was a factor – where adults perceive black children as being older than they are because they see them as more “streetwise”.

It reads: “The disproportionate decision to strip search Child Q is unlikely to have been disconnected from her ethnicity and her background as a child growing up on an estate in Hackney.”

Black girl strip-searched at school 'can't go a day without wanting to give up'

Child Q's family have called for the officers involved to be personally punished for the incident ( Image: Alamy Live News.)

Her mother said the family want the officers involved to be “individually held to account and face real consequences for what they have done” following an an Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) investigation. The family will be taking civil action against her school over the incident, according to law firm Bhatt Murphy. Her lawyer, Chanel Dolcy, said Child Q “seeks to hold both institutions to account including through cast-iron commitments to ensure this never happens again”.

Her treatment has caused widespread backlash from politicians, campaigners, and members of the public since the report was revealed. The Local Child Safeguarding Practice Review, conducted by City and Hackney Safeguarding Children Partnership, found the strip search should never have happened, was unjustified, and racism “was likely to have been an influencing factor”.

Ms Dolcy, who specialises in police misconduct and claims against public authorities, is acting for Child Q, alongside Florence Cole, education and community care solicitor at Just for Kids Law. In the statement, Ms Dolcy said: “The Metropolitan Police has seemed incapable of reform for generations, and it is difficult to say that will ever change.

Black girl strip-searched at school 'can't go a day without wanting to give up'

In a statement, Child Q thanked the “thousands” of people offering her support ( Image: Getty Images)

“Nevertheless, this is a pivotal time for the Metropolitan Police as it awaits the appointment of a new commissioner.

“Child Q's 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 Met Police is appointed as the new Met commissioner. Child Q's 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.”

Ms 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.”

Scotland Yard has apologised for the teen’s “truly regrettable” treatment.

Figures reveal Met officers have carried out over 9,000 strip-searches on children in custody in the last five years.

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