In 2020, Child Q, a Black female child of secondary school age, was strip searched by female police officers from the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS). The search, which involved the exposure of Child Q’s intimate body parts, took place on school premises, without an ‘appropriate adult’ present.
A Safeguarding Review by the City & Hackney Safeguarding Children Partnership (CHSCP) took place and the report was published in March 2022. You can access the full report here. They concluded that:
- Safeguarding a child’s well being should be the main reason for any search. If a police officer or other professional is worried about your safety, they may make a referral to Children’s Social Care. The search should always be proportionate to the concerns they have. Your best interests should be a top priority. Every child has the right to privacy and the law should protect this.
- Racism was likely to have influenced the decision to carry out the strip search of Child Q and it is recognised that Black and Global Majority children continue to be treated disproportionately. Child Q and her family strongly believe this was a racist incident. Adultification bias (where adults perceive Black children as being older than they are due to racism) meant that Child Q was not treated in a way that was appropriate for her age. If you are searched and believe racism is a factor you can reach out to Young Hackney for support.
- Child Q didn’t have an appropriate adult with her during the search. Unless there is a risk of serious harm there must be an appropriate adult present during a ‘strip’ search. If you are ‘strip’ searched and don’t want an adult to be present this must be talked about with the appropriate adult present so they are aware and you both agree that they won’t be present in the search space.
- The family of Child Q were not informed that she would be ‘strip’ searched which meant they were not able to keep her safe. Parents should always be informed if this process is going to happen so they can keep their children well and safe.
- Often people react to threatening situations (such as searches) through the responses of fight, flight or freeze. However others experience the ‘fawn’ or appease response which involves trying to please a person to avoid conflict. Compliance can therefore be a trauma response.
What is an appropriate adult?
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