Met strip-searches of two 16-year-old boys to be investigated by IOPC

Met strip-searches of two 16-year-old boys to be investigated by IOPC

Boys understood to have been searched in Ilford and Bethnal Green without appropriate adult present

London Metropolitan police car on the street

Two more incidents involving the strip-search of children by the Metropolitan police will be investigated by its watchdog as the fallout from the Child Q case continues.

The investigations launched by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) both involve 16-year-old boys who are understood to have been strip-searched in custody in 2020 without an appropriate adult present: one at Ilford police station in January and the other at Bethnal Green police station in October.

It comes after the IOPC received 11 referrals from the Met relating to separate incidents between December 2019 and May 2022. All involved children aged 14 to 17, who were strip-searched by officers in or outside of custody.

Besides the two referrals being investigated, the IOPC have said six others are suitable for a local investigation by the police force, with the remaining three awaiting a decision on whether further action is required.

In total, the IOPC is investigating five incidents of children strip-searched by Met officers, including the 15-year-old black girl known as Child Q.

In March, the revelation of Child Q’s treatment at a school in Hackney, east London, prompted fury and protests. A child safeguarding review initiated by Hackney council found that she was subjected to a police strip-search in December 2020 involving the exposure of intimate body parts, with racism likely to have been an “influencing factor”. Four Met officers are being investigated by the IOPC for gross misconduct.

The IOPC has also recommended that the Met takes “immediate steps to ensure that any strip-searches of children are being carried out in line with relevant legislation, national guidance and local policy”.

These recommendations include that the best interests of the child should be a primary consideration, an appropriate adult must be present, and the strip-search of a child should be “conducted in such a way which, as far as possible, maintains their dignity and takes into account their health, hygiene and welfare needs”.

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Michael Lockwood, the director general of the IOPC, said: “We have been concerned about what we have seen in the cases referred to us involving complaints about strip-searches of children …

“Given the apparent delay in some of these cases being referred to us, we will now work with the MPS [Met police service] to review a sample of complaints … to establish whether the process is working as it should.

“By coming together in this way, I hope we can address increasing concerns about the use of strip-search powers in England and Wales, in order to provide assurance that they are only being used when absolutely essential.”

A Met spokesperson said it welcomed the IOPC recommendations.