'We are absolutely focused on making sure the legacy of Child Q’s experience results in change': Hackney Council responds to Local Child Safeguarding Review

Hackney Town Hall up shot

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 across many of the professionals involved that day, 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 this review have appalled us: 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. 

“We want and expect better for our young people and our wider communities. It is up to all of us to challenge racism where this is seen, heard or felt - and it is incumbent on the Council to challenge partners and be a driving force of meaningful, systemic change.

“That’s why we’re asking for an update report, in six-nine months, detailing the progress made in response to the review’s recommendations, especially in relation to the police and other partners. We are resolute in ensuring these will be implemented at pace.

“Senior Council officers met with the Basic Command Unit (BCU) Commander to understand the actions of police that day. We know that he is appalled by these events and hope that the BCU will fully take on board the recommendations including for greater strategic engagement with Hackney Account - the local stop and search monitoring group - and others to take forward this work. We have carried out a lot of work with the police to build trust and confidence locally - but incidents like this only serve to undermine all that hard work and progress. The IOPC is carrying out an investigation, and we also await the conclusion of that report with interest. 

“People from across our communities will rightly feel angry and upset at police actions towards Child Q. How many times must those from Black and global majority backgrounds put up with disprortionate actions, racial profiling - and worse? The police must act now to stop inexcusable behaviours and mindsets in order to properly serve all our diverse communities.

“The Council is singular in its focus to stamp out all forms of racism and institutional bias in the borough - conscious and unconscious. That work will remain ceaseless. The Council has anti-racist action plan, which underpins our commitment to being an anti-racist borough. It sees us lead from the inside out: from investigating how inclusive we are within the Council to how we tackle all forms of racism in our community. 

“We welcome all the recommendations made in the review, in particular the focus on practitioners from the police and schools in the continuation of multi-agency adultification training; and the development of an anti-racist charter and practical guides that support the eradicating of racism, discrimination and injustice across local safeguarding arrangements. We also back calls for the MPS to engage The College of Policing to improve guidance concerning reasonable grounds involving stop and search activity with children.

“Hackney Education continues to work closely with the school. A local investigation was undertaken by the governing board in order to understand how this situation was allowed to occur, including why school staff did not feel empowered to challenge the actions by the police. As a result the school has conducted reviews, including of roles and responsibilities in working with the police and an external evaluation of safeguarding.

“Social workers from the Council have been working with the child, and her family, to offer psychological and practical support, and advocacy, to try to help them come to terms with the incident and help her re-engage in her education. However, it is without doubt the effects will stay with Child Q for years to come, if not forever. Our foremost thoughts remain with her and her family.

“We are absolutely focused on making sure the legacy of Child Q’s experience results in change. Change that means our children and young people are better safeguarded and their welfare properly promoted.

“Lastly, we would like to extend our sincere gratitude to Child Q and her family for participating in what must have been an exceptionally difficult process for them all and have written to them today to offer our continued support.”