Girl tried to commit suicide after Met agents comic strip search, says mother | Metropolitan Police

A 14-year-old girl of mixed white and black ethnicity was so traumatized after being searched by Metropolitan police officers that she attempted suicide, her mother said.

Olivia, not her real name, was menstruating when she was handcuffed and searched in front of male officers after more than 20 hours in custody.

Her mother, Lisa, also not her real name, had told officers her daughter was autistic, had learning difficulties and self-harmed, according to an investigation by BBC Radio 4’s File on 4 programme.

Lisa said the ordeal had a devastating impact on Olivia’s mental health. “She was quite withdrawn. She spent a lot of time in her room and continued to secretly injure herself. She said she wouldn’t be here anymore and she wouldn’t grow up,” she told the program.

A few weeks later, Lisa said, Olivia tried to kill herself.

The incident took place in December 2020, the same month that a 15-year-old black girl known as Child Q was searched while she was menstruating by Met officers at her school in Hackney, east London. A security investigation concluded that racism was likely a factor.

Lisa told the program she believed “racial stereotyping” was a factor in her daughter’s case. She said Olivia had been out with some friends when they had a disagreement with two boys who called the police, claiming they were the victims of an attempted theft with a knife. Nothing was discovered when Olivia was searched by the police, but she and her friends were arrested.

Lisa was in isolation with Covid-19 at the time, but repeatedly called the police station to express her concerns about Olivia’s background and her mental health.

After more than 20 hours in custody, Olivia was discovered in possession of a sharpened stick that she used to injure herself, her mother said. Officers handcuffed Olivia before detaining her, cutting her underwear and frisking her in front of male officers.

Lisa said: “She was absolutely distraught. She told me they hit her head on the cell floor and she… [her] underwear and that there were also male officers at the time.

“And not only that, Olivia was really on her period at the time. And they used, I don’t know if it was a knife or a pair of scissors, to cut off her underwear in front of these adult male cops, which I don’t think is right.”

Olivia later appeared in court charged with possession of a bladed knife and was acquitted.

Gail Hadfield Gardner, a lawyer representing the family in a civil case against police, said rules should be followed when frisking minors. “The legal guardian, the person responsible for that child, must be informed. The strip search should only be done in front of same-sex employees, not same-sex employees with the opposite sex watching,” she said.

The Met’s deputy assistant commissioner Laurence Taylor told the program that an investigation was underway that “will determine the appropriateness of the search and the manner in which it was conducted.”

More than 13,000 young people under the age of 18 have been searched in England and Wales since 2017, data obtained by File on 4. The program said separate data showed that two-thirds of children searched by the Met in the past three years, from ethnically diverse backgrounds.

Taylor defended the police’s record, claiming that searches were based on “intelligence-led policing”.

The program will be broadcasted on Radio 4 on Tuesday at 8 p.m.

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