Met strip-searched 14-year-old girl as male officers looked on

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Demonstration outside Hackney Town Hall after the strip-search of ‘Child Q’ at a local school

THREE-QUARTERS of the thousands of children who are strip-searched by police forces around the UK each year are black, the BBC’s File On 4 revealed yesterday.

The radio programme focused on the case of ‘Olivia’, a young autistic girl who was already suffering from self harming, but attempted to take her own life after she was handcuffed and had her underwear ‘cut off’ while male officers looked on.

It follows the case of Child Q – a 15-year-old black pupil who was strip-searched at school after she was wrongly accused of possessing drugs.

Olivia, who is mixed race and autistic, was strip-searched in December 2020, the same month as Child Q.

Olivia’s mother, ‘Lisa’, said she was given no warning that her child was going to be forcibly strip-searched.

She told File on 4 that her daughter had already spent more than 20 hours in custody when she was strip-searched.

‘Olivia was actually on her period at the time too. And they cut off her underwear in front of these grown male officers. She was absolutely distraught.’

Lisa said her daughter’s experience had a devastating impact on her mental health.

‘She became quite reclusive. She spent a lot of time in her room and she continued to self-harm in secret. And then a few weeks later, she attempted suicide.’

The Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor, interviewed in the programme, actually sought to justify the disproportionate number of black children strip-searched by the Met.

He claimed to File on 4 that strip-searches help to keep children safe while in custody.

Taylor claimed that the disproportionality of young people from ethnically diverse backgrounds being searched is based on ‘intelligence-led policing’, adding: ‘It’s absolutely right that police focus where that harm exists.’

Figures obtained by the BBC revealed that police carried out more than 13,000 strip-searches of young people aged under 18 over the past five years.

The BBC sent Freedom of Information requests to 43 police forces in England and Wales, plus the British Transport Police, asking for the number of strip-searches between 2017 and 2021.

However, the true number of searches is likely to be significantly higher, as only 31 of 44 forces provided data.

Separate data revealed that 75% of the children who were strip-searched by the Met in custody over the past three years were from ethnically diverse backgrounds, prompting allegations of racism.

Following the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993 the Macpherson Report described the Metropolitan Police as ‘institutionally racist’.

It was revealed in March this year that 90% of Met officers disciplined for racism keep their jobs.

Olivia’s family is now bringing a civil case against the Met.