Following the incident involving Child Q, the Metropolitan Police is progressing at pace work to ensure that where an intrusive search of a child is necessary, children are dealt with appropriately and respectfully.
We are reviewing our policies and procedures and have brought in new measures for increased supervision of searches and closer liaison with parents.
We are aware that four officers have been served with notices by the Independent Office for Police Conduct informing them they are under investigation in relation to the search of Child Q.
The notices inform the officers, who are police constables attached to Central East Command Unit, that they are being investigated for gross misconduct.
Being served a notice does not mean that misconduct is proven and we await the findings of the IOPC’s investigation.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor said: “We continue to fully co-operate with the IOPC investigation.
“What happened to Child Q was a truly regrettable incident and we accept the findings of the Local Child Safeguarding Practice Review published in March that it should never have happened.
“We have apologised publicly to the child, her family and the wider community. We do understand how much concern this incident has caused, and how distressed the girl has been.
“We have been working hard to listen to what our communities and partners are telling us about this incident and haven’t waited to look at how we might improve our practices. We have already made changes and continue to work hard to balance the policing need for this type of search with the considerable impact it can have on young people.”
Since Child Q, we have ensured our officers and staff have a refreshed understanding of the policy for conducting a ‘further search’, particularly around the requirement for an appropriate adult to be present. We have also given officers advice around dealing with schools, ensuring that children are treated as children and considering safeguarding for those under 18. ‘Adultification’ is a subject we need to understand more and training will be delivered, in the first instance, to all frontline officers in Central East Command Unit, which covers Hackney and Tower Hamlets.
More widely we are reviewing the policy for ‘further searches’ for those aged under 18. This is to assure ourselves the policy is appropriate and takes account of the safeguarding review for Child Q, and also that it recognises the fact a child in these circumstances may well be a vulnerable victim of exploitation by others involved in gangs, County Lines and drug dealing.
To ensure we have very clear control over this type of search, we have introduced a pilot across the Met. As well as requiring a conversation with a supervisor and the presence of an appropriate adult, an inspector must now give authority prior to the search taking place to ensure appropriate oversight. We will also ensure a Merlin report is submitted for all such searches, to ensure safeguarding the child is the priority. The Merlin system contains information about a child coming to police attention.
After any drugs search on a child where nothing is found, Hackney’s Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) will run a pilot scheme where a letter is sent to the parents of the stopped child informing them of what has happened. This is to keep parents updated about significant incidents involving their child, and help safeguarding measures by recording potential opportunities for positive intervention.
We are also creating a child centric stop and search review panel involving the community and partner agencies. The panel will scrutinise search activity, review body worn video, critically evaluate whether there has been a ‘safeguarding first’ approach and highlight and raise any identified adultification.
As well as the review of policy and practice, we are engaged with the National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC) leads for stop and search and children and young people, together with the College of Policing, to ensure the Met is fully aligned with national protocols and that the recommendations for policing more broadly are considered.
The search of Child Q took place on Thursday, 3 December 2020, when police were called to a school where staff were concerned that a 15-year-old girl smelled strongly of cannabis and may have been in possession of drugs.
The child’s bag and outer clothing had already been searched by staff at the school prior to police arrival with no drugs found.
Two female officers conducted a further search of the girl in the medical room at the school under Section 23 of the Misuse of Drugs Act which required her to remove clothing. She was not physically touched by the searching officers.
No force was used and no drugs were located.
The search was not undertaken in the presence of an appropriate adult.
Information was provided to the child’s family to support any complaint they wish to make against the Metropolitan Police Service. A complaint was subsequently received and was referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct in May 2021 for investigation.