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Police minister Chris Philp defends strip-searches of children in ‘limited circumstances’

The strip-search of Child Q sparked protests outside Stoke Newington police station. (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Archive)
The strip-search of Child Q sparked protests outside Stoke Newington police station. (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Archive)

The policing minister on Friday defended strip-searches of children in “limited circumstances” after it was confirmed that four Met officers face misconduct charges over the Child Q case.

Chris Philp said the Metropolitan police’s treatment of the 15-year-old black schoolgirl while she was menstruating was “unacceptable”, and said three of the officers facing allegations of gross misconduct should be sacked “if appropriate”.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct watchdog said on Thursday the three officers will face a misconduct hearing, and the fourth a lesser misconduct meeting, after Child Q was wrongly accused of having drugs and searched without an adult present at a Hackney police station in December 2020.

“It’s right that this gets properly investigated. We shouldn’t pre-judge the investigation, but obviously this kind of incident should be taken very seriously,” Mr Philp told LBC radio:

But asked whether it was ever acceptable to strip-search a child, he said: “In limited circumstances I’m afraid it is, because sometimes, like drugs in particular, can be concealed in intimate body cavities, which doesn’t, I’m afraid – I know it’s not very edifying, but it does require a strip-search on occasion.”

The Child Q case is one of many to have damaged public faith in the London force. Patsy Stevenson, a woman arrested at a vigil for murdered marketing executive Sarah Everard, called on Thursday for the Met to be abolished after she won a payout and apology.

But Mr Philp told Times Radio: “I don’t think the Met should be disbanded.

“It is improving in terms of culture and values and conduct. It is getting a lot better. They’re rooting out officers who shouldn’t be wearing the uniform or carrying the badge. They do a lot of work with the community.

“I think [Met Commissioner] Mark Rowley is taking the right steps. What I’d like to see is that to go further, I’d like to see them recruiting more police officers, which the Government has provided funding for.”