Another teenage girl strip-searched by police
ScreamingMeMe · 24/05/2022 07:57
This is absolutely awful. The poor girl!
A 14-year-old girl who was strip-searched by police was left traumatised by the incident and later tried to kill herself, her mother says.
Olivia* was handcuffed and had her underwear cut off in the presence of male officers, she added.
London's Metropolitan Police said it was investigating the incident.
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 - was strip-searched in December 2020, the same month as Child Q.
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Olivia's mum, who we are calling Lisa to protect her daughter's anonymity, said she was given no warning that her child was going to be forcibly strip-searched.
She told Radio 4's File on 4 programme that Olivia had already spent more than 20 hours in custody.
She said Olivia had been out with some friends when they had an argument with two boys, who called the police and alleged they were the victims of an attempted knife-point robbery. She was searched by police at the scene and nothing was discovered. Olivia and her friends were then arrested.
At the time, Lisa was isolating with Covid-19, but says she spoke to the police on the phone and warned them her daughter had autism, learning difficulties and had been self-harming.
After spending more than 20 hours in custody, Olivia was discovered to be in possession of a sharpened stick and a small blade for the purposes of self-harming.
Lisa says the discovery prompted six officers to forcibly strip Olivia and carry out an intimate search in the presence of male officers.
Officers then handcuffed Olivia and strip-searched her, Lisa said. "Olivia was actually on her period at the time too. And they cut off her underwear in front of these grown male officers." She added: "She was absolutely distraught."
Lisa said her daughter's experience had a devastating impact on her mental health. "She became quite reclusive," she added.
"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." Olivia later appeared in court accused of possession of a bladed weapon and was found not guilty after magistrates accepted the items were used for self-harming.
Her family is now bringing a civil case against the force. Lawyer Gail Hadfield Grainger, who is representing them, says there are a number of rules that must be followed when searching minors.
"The legal guardian, the person that has responsibility for that child, needs to be informed," she said. "The strip-search needs to be done in front of same-sex staff only, not same-sex staff with the opposite sex on-looking.
"And that culture is set to protect your dignity, save you from embarrassment, and to put in order exactly how these things should be done correctly."
The Met's Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor said a force investigation was looking into how appropriate the search was and how it was conducted. He told File on 4 that strip-searches helped to keep children safe while in custody.
He added: "(The) worst case scenario would be that we stop strip-searching in its entirety and a young child dies in custody because they are in possession of a knife or drugs that they use to harm themselves.
"And we have a big responsibility to people coming into our custody environment. We're responsible for their safety."
Figures obtained by the BBC have revealed 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 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.
Mr Taylor defended the force's record. He said the disproportionality of young people from ethnically diverse backgrounds being searched was based on "intelligence-led policing" - both around offending rates and those falling victim to crime, including knife crime.
"It's absolutely right that police focus where that harm exists," he added.
Listen to File on 4: Searching Questions at 20:00 BST on BBC Radio 4 or download the podcast on BBC Sounds.
SolasAnla · 24/05/2022 10:49
People do OD and die from injuries including self-inflicted ones while in police custody so the police do have to take the worst case scenario into account.
That said the officers, male or female who participated and whomever authorised the male officers to assist need to find new jobs. There was no need to start any strip search until they had enough women to do it safely.
Once the blade was discovered the stripsearch in this instance was justified, as the police were dealing with someone who could self harm. The fact that the mother told that to the police would work against them if she self-harmed and they did nothing. As they did not find it for 20 hours I will assume the only reason the blade was discovered was because she either was using or indicated that she had it and could use it? She was 14 years old the fact that they were dealing with a legal child should oblige the force to ensure that enough women were in the station to deal with a woman prisoner being forcibly restrained during a search. If not even one of men could have supervised her through a cell door to give the station time to call to organise the staffing levels.
A strip search is a legal physical assault, if she had been co-operating and a scissors was used that would not be a legal search.
nettie434 · 24/05/2022 23:09
The Met should be ashamed of itself. This happened at the same time as the incident with Child Q. I now wonder how common it is.
Maybe Olivia's (not her real name) self harming meant that the decision to strip search her was justified. What is not justified is not telling her mother they were planning this and, as mentioned above, not waiting until they had enough women officers to undertake the search with as much dignity as possible.
nettie434 · 24/05/2022 23:14
I've just noticed there's another thread on this on the sex and gender board. Link is here:
anitadump · 27/05/2022 15:58
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