Making sure the legacy of Child Q’s experience results in lasting change

Representatives from across social work, safeguarding and youth services have called for lasting change as a result of the ‘appalling’ case of Child Q, after a safeguarding review revealed she was stripped and searched by female police officers from the Metropolitan Police Service.

21/03/22

Making sure the legacy of Child Q’s experience results in lasting change

In 2020, Child Q, a Black female child of secondary school age, was stripped and searched by female police officers from the Metropolitan Police Service.

The search, which involved the exposure of Child Q’s intimate body parts, took place on school premises, without an appropriate adult present and with the knowledge that Child Q was menstruating.

As a result, a Local Child Safeguarding Practice Review was initiated by the City & Hackney Safeguarding Children Partnership (CHSCP).

The review concluded that Child Q should never have been strip searched and found there was an absence of a safeguarding-first approach to their practice.

The review makes eight findings and fourteen recommendations for practice improvement.

Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for Children's Services, and the Mayor of Hackney, Philip Glanville, said all aspects of the review were “appalling”. In a joint statement, they said they condemned “the decision by police officers to strip search a child in her school; the lack of challenge by the school toward police; the absence of requirements of police to seek parental consent in the strip search of a child.”

“But most stark: that racism is likely to have been an ‘influencing factor’ in the decision by police to undertake the strip search.

“We want to thank our Independent Child Safeguarding Commissioner, Jim Gamble QPM, for pushing ahead with this review. We are equally pleased that the report's authors and its reference panel didn’t back away from asking tough questions and making some challenging findings. These are relevant for all agencies, not least the police and the school system.

“Child Q was subjected to humiliating, traumatising and utterly shocking treatment by police officers - actions that were wholly disproportionate to the alleged incident to which they had been called.

“This is exacerbated by the fact that the strip search was carried out at school - a place where the child had an expectation of safety, security and care. Instead, she was let down by those who were meant to protect her.

“The report concluded that racism was likely an ‘influencing factor’ in the strip search, and the girl - a Black child - was subjected to ‘adultification’ bias - where Black and global majority children are held to adult standards, but their white peers are less likely to be.

The council now says it’s asking for an ‘update report’, in six to nine months, detailing the progress made in response to the review’s recommendations, particularly in relation to the police and other partners.

Commenting on the case, the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) said the events highlighted the “reality that racism is ever present in our education, criminal justice and other systems.”

“BASW writes to wholly condemn the actions of all those involved in this heinous act of physical and emotional child abuse. We denounce the degrading, humiliating and traumatic treatment of this 15-year-old girl.”

“The case of Child Q highlights the reality that racism is ever present in our education, criminal justice and other systems. It is beyond belief that in a 21st century, post-colonial era in the UK, a child could be subjected to such treatment, likened to 16th century slave trade nuances. This horrendous violation of Child Q’s body shows a systemic failure by many professionals who should have protected her. As such it is only right that there are grave consequences for the local authority, school, and the Metropolitan Police.

“As an association, we express our deep empathy and stand in solidarity with Child Q and her family. We stand together as social workers to fight institutional and structural racism whenever it occurs and work together to promote a society where equity and justice prevails.”

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