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05 Aug 2022

Jessica Maguire comments on the investigations into the Met Police over child strip-searches

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has made recommendations to the Metropolitan Police Service in response to safeguarding issues raised by the well-publicized referrals of their strip-searching of children, often from BAME backgrounds.

Jessica Maguire commented:

“Alarmingly, the IOPC recommendations appear simply to educate police about rules which already exist and which they should ordinarily be following. The IOPC has essentially been forced to remind the police that they should be complying with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (“PACE”), which has had clear rules about the conduct of strip-searches since 2008.

PACE 1984 requires that except in cases of urgency (i.e. where there is risk of serious harm to the detainee or to others), whenever an intimate search involves exposure of intimate body parts, there must be at least two people present other than the detainee. The detainee’s dignity and rights must be respected, and an appropriate adult (there to advise a child about their rights) must be present unless the detainee expressly refuses and the appropriate adult agrees.

The recent reports, including that of Child Q, should be prompting more severe and onerous recommendations by the IOPC. It is not satisfactory merely to recite the obligations which are already required by the law. More needs to be done in order to address the issues which lead some police officers to determine that they are entitled to simply conduct a strip-search of a child without safeguarding protocols in place. The limited circumstances in which a case would be so urgent that a police officer cannot await the arrival of an appropriate adult should be more specific and far more restricted to ensure that strip-searches of children without appropriate adults cannot be justified by any police force.”