Minister criticised for ‘distinct lack of urgency’ over report into strip search of black schoolgirl

The policing minister has been criticised for a “distinct lack of urgency” after repeatedly saying the Government must wait for the outcome of a police watchdog report into the strip search of a black schoolgirl.

Kit Malthouse (pictured) said Child Q “could have been any one of our relatives” as he condemned the “dreadful” incident, adding that the revulsion provoked by the case “is not confined to women”.

But he repeatedly said the Government must wait for a report into the incident by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) which will provide the “full picture”, and told MPs the officers involved “have a right to due process”.

Child Q was strip searched by female Metropolitan Police officers at her school in 2020 without another adult present and in the knowledge that she was menstruating.

The 15-year-old had been wrongly suspected of carrying cannabis.

Following the “traumatic” search, family members described her as changing from a “happy-go-lucky girl to a timid recluse that hardly speaks”, who now self-harms and needs therapy.

The IOPC launched its investigation following a complaint in May 2021, and said it has completed its inquiries and is finalising its report.

The case has sparked outrage from politicians and the public, with London mayor Sadiq Khan sharing his “dismay and disgust”, and equalities minister Kemi Badenoch calling it an “appalling incident”.

Protests also took place over the weekend in London.

Mr Malthouse said strip searching is “one of the most intrusive powers” available to police, and called last week’s safeguarding report “troubling and deeply concerning”.

Responding to an urgent question in the Commons, he said: “We must let the IOPC conclude its work.

“We would of course expect any findings to be acted upon swiftly, but it is vital that we do not prejudge the IOPC’s investigation or prejudice due process, so it’d be wrong for me to make any further comment on the case in question at this time.”

Labour MP Clive Efford (Eltham) criticised Mr Malthouse for having a “wait and see attitude”, saying: “There is a distinct lack of urgency in (the minister’s) approach.

“It is quite clear that there are areas now where the Government can act.”

Labour MP Stella Creasy (Walthamstow) said: “The minister says this could have happened to any child and that he thinks of his own relatives.

“The brutal, difficult truth that many of my constituents have raised with me over the weekend is it is not likely to have happened to any of his relatives or our relatives.

“It is young black girls who read this story and are horrified by it and who need us to recognise explicitly the disproportionality in the way in which the police work with them.”

She said “strip searching of children is not a one-off” and called on the minister to publish data on the numbers of strip searches that have happened “by borough command unit and by ethnicity”.

Mr Malthouse did not address the call to publish data, but reiterated the need to wait for the IOPC report to find out “what went wrong”.

Responding to Mr Efford, he said: “That process must complete, when it does we will have the full picture, and if we are required to act we will act quickly and swiftly.”

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2022, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) PA.