The case of a 15-year-old girl strip-searched by police at her school “should horrify us all”, a government adviser has said.
Nimco Ali, an independent government adviser on tackling violence against women and girls, told the Sophy Ridge On Sunday show: “I think the idea of a child being strip-searched – be they female or male – should be something we shouldn’t be able to tolerate in this country.”
The family of the girl – known as Child Q – is suing the Metropolitan Police and her school over the incident, which happened in December 2020.
It came to light this month in a safeguarding report, which found that racism “was likely to have been an influencing factor”.
The Local Child Safeguarding Practice Review, conducted by City & Hackney Safeguarding Children Partnership, revealed that the teenager was pulled out of an exam to be searched after teachers called the police.
Two female officers conducted the strip search, in which the schoolgirl’s intimate body parts were exposed and she was made to take off her sanitary towel, according to the review.
Family members described her as changing from a “happy-go-lucky girl to a timid recluse that hardly speaks”, who now self-harms and needs therapy.
There is more for us to do on racism
When asked about the possible role of racism in the incident, Ms Ali said: “This country is one of the most tolerant countries in Europe.
“Is there more for us to do? Yes there is.
“COVID has really brought out a lot of seedy people – I’ve kind of experienced that in the last two years – really horrific experiences of racism, which I never thought that the UK could be capable of.”
She added: “Ultimately, we have to talk about the Met Police and institutional racism.”
Scotland Yard has apologised over the incident and said it “should never have happened”.
The Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) has investigated three police officers for misconduct.
Ms Ali also raised concerns about the Homes For Ukraine programme, which allows Britons to host Ukrainians who have fled the war in their own country.
Safeguarding issue for refugees
Ms Ali, who came to the UK as a refugee at the age of seven, said there could be a safeguarding issue, saying there was not as much importance being placed on this as there had been with Syrian and Afghan refugees.
“Those who want to take advantage of vulnerable people will use this opportunity where people are looking for safety, in order to abuse them.
“We have to be wary and conscious of the fact that there are going to be some people who don’t necessarily have the best intentions when they talk about taking refugees in.”
The scheme pays hosts £350 a month if they house a refugee for at least six months, but it has been criticised for not working quickly enough to grant visas.
Last week it was reported that more than 150,000 people in Britain had registered their interest in hosting a refugee but the government has not said how many applicants have been successful.
Watch Sophy Ridge On Sunday live from 8.30am on Sunday, followed by Sophy Ridge: The Take at 9.30am