More than 40 MPs have signed a letter to the home secretary asking her to outline how police and teachers will be held to account over the incident in Hackney, east London.
Hackney Council has also written to Patel demanding action, and accused the Met Police of obstructing a safeguarding report into the case of “Child Q” – who in 2020 was pulled out of an exam after her teachers called the police to investigate what they said was the smell of cannabis on her clothing.
She was taken by two female officers to be strip searched in the school’s medical room, was told to remove the sanitary towel she was wearing due to being on her period, and had her intimate parts exposed.
No other adult was present and her parents were not contacted. No cannabis was found. Three police officers involved are now being investigated for misconduct by police watchdog the Independent Office for Police Conduct.
The safeguarding review laying out the incident and the emotional impact on the girl was published this week and sparked widespread outrage over the failings of the school and police.
The report found racism played a part in the incident, stating Child Q’s experiences are “unlikely to have been the same” had she not been Black.
It said it was likely that “adultification bias” was also a factor in police actions – where Black children are perceived as older than they are, with people in positions of power being less protective and more punitive towards them.
On Friday Child Q issued a statement thanking the public for their support. She said: “I want to thank thousands of people across the world of all backgrounds who have offered me support – both publicly and through messages conveyed to my legal team – following everything I’ve been through. I know I am not alone.”
Hackney North and Stoke Newington MP Diane Abbott is one of those to sign the letter to Patel, as well as David Lammy, Harriet Harman, Dawn Butler and Florence Eshalomi, who organised it.
The MPs also ask Patel to outline how the government will ensure no more similar incidents will take place.
The letter reads: “All of us are shocked and indignant that serving police officers could treat a young person at school in this manner.
“No one sends their child to school expecting them to be strip searched, and the incident will have caused much trauma and distress for this child.”
In a letter to Scotland Yard on Thursday, Hackney mayor Philip Glanville, deputy mayor Anntoinette Bramble, Cllr Susan Fajana-Thomas and chief executive Mark Carroll said: “From the outset, the response of Hackney Police to this incident has been unsatisfactory, and the review team faced difficulties in accessing the officers involved and useful data.”
It adds: “The case did not happen in a vacuum, and is part of longstanding engagement between the council, police and community on matters of policing and race over many years. It is now time for action.
“A failure to do this will further knock the community and our own confidence in our local police – which is already strained following a series of difficult events.”
Hackney has asked Patel to ensure the Met complies with the findings of the report, and called for an urgent review of policing guidelines and practices around the strip-searching of children.
Abbott also demanded an urgent meeting with Hackney Police following the report’s publication.
So far education secretary Nadhim Zahawi and Patel have stayed silent on the case. But equalities minister Kemi Badenoch raised eyebrows when quizzed about it during the launch of the government’s race equality strategy in parliament. She said it was an “appalling incident”, but added that the response showed this is “a country that cares about ethnic minorities”.
Met failings have emerged at a time of decline in public confidence in the police. According to YouGov, 37 per cent of people in Britain think the police are doing “a bad job” with approval ratings continuing to fall within the last two years.
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