The case of Child Q has rocked so many, yet not enough of us.
The full report was difficult to read. To hear what an innocent child endured at the hands of those there to protect her is unforgivable. For me, the pain is acute. As a mother of two daughters, I’m physically shaken and have the utmost respect for Child Q and her family.
The report found that racism ‘likely’ had a part to play. Come on. Child Q was on the receiving end of the inherent racism that continues to be pervasive in this country.
For those not aware of the disturbing pattern of police behaviour towards the black community, I’m going to share some stats that may help understand why our relationship with the police is so broken.
Let’s be very clear – stop and search has always been the gateway action to enable the police to act out their prejudices. A foundation built on racism will always bear rotten fruit. We often hear that it’s just a few rotten apples – no hun – your whole tree needs uprooting.
In 2020/21, the stop and search rate for Black people in England and Wales was 54 searches per 1,000 people, compared with the stop and search rate for white people of eight per one thousand people. The Metropolitan Police force in London undertook almost half of all stop and searches. Black people are 3% of the UK population.
So why did I want to write this article?
Because I felt out of control.
Because I felt defenceless.
Because Child Q could have been my baby.
We need to help our children know how to navigate the systems set up to fail them, but we first have to educate ourselves before we can do this.
Stop and search is one of the most used, most controversial and most criticised police powers because of how often this power is abused. Officers have long applied their powers incorrectly and unfairly, and for the most part, towards the black community and other ethnic groups.
I don’t want to get bogged down in detail, but it’s important to know components of stop and search if you’re going to successfully hold your position against those intent on misapplying the law. There are two kinds of stop and search:
- Suspicion-based stop and search
- Suspicion-less stop and search
Suspicion-based stop and search
This is what we hear of most, Section 1. Officers are given the power to stop and search individuals if they have ‘reasonable grounds’ to suspect they’re carrying illegal drugs, weapons or stolen property.
‘Reasonable grounds’ is what an ordinary person would think was fair if they had all the information the police officer has. You can’t be stopped for no reason. Nor can you be stopped because of your physical appearance, or the fact that you belong to a particular category of people, or have a criminal record.
If they don’t have reasonable grounds, the search is unlawful and so is keeping you there. If so, you could take legal action or make a complaint against the police.
Suspicion-less stop and search
Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 allows a police officer to stop and search a person without suspicion.
This is different from ordinary ‘stop and search’ because it means the police don’t need to have ‘reasonable grounds’ to stop and search you. Section 60 searches can only be carried out if authorised by a senior police officer. If a Section 60 authorisation has been granted, you can do little to prevent the police from carrying out this type of stop and search, but that still doesn’t impend on your rights.
Know your rights
If you are in a position of being stopped and searched, before you’re touched, the police officer must tell you:
- Their name and police station
- What they expect to find (e.g. drugs)
- The reason they want to search you (their ‘reasonable grounds’)
- Why they are legally allowed to search you
- That you can have a record of the search
They can only detain you during the search – and only for as short a time as possible.
The law on strip searches
Officers can force people to remove clothing during a search (once they have stated their ‘reasonable grounds’). People can be asked to take off their coats, gloves, religious garments (although this must be done out of public view).
If an officer demands a strip search, this must occur in private and by an officer of the same sex, without anyone of the opposite sex present. Also, there must be at least two people in the room other than the detainee, except in cases of urgency.
Under the Police and Criminal Evidence (Pace) Act 1984, an ‘intimate search – a physical examination rather than visual – should only be carried out by a registered medical practitioner or registered nurse.
The rules for children differ. Children aged 17 and under need to have an appropriate adult present if they are to be strip-searched, except in urgent cases where there is risk of harm or if a juvenile has stated explicitly that they don’t want an appropriate adult there. This decision must be recorded and signed by an appropriate adult.
While Child Q continues to battle with the impact of her traumatic experience, the three Met officers involved and the teaching staff remain in their jobs. Unbelievable.
There has been no acknowledgement about Child Q’s case by this country’s leaders. Black Lives still do not Matter by many of those in positions to influence change.
It’s up to us to raise awareness and show Child Q we stand with her. What she was subjected to is UNACCEPTABLE and can NEVER happen to any child again. Black girls are most at risk and must be protected at all costs – it’s every single one of our duty. Period.
Join the solidarity march and show your support if you’re in London today.
Sending love and light always.