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Investigation launched against four Met Police officers who strip-searched black schoolgirl

All four Metropolitan Police officers who strip-searched a 15-year-old black schoolgirl while she was on her period are now being investigated for gross misconduct, it has been revealed.

It had been claimed that the girl, known as Child Q, smelled strongly of cannabis and may have been in possession of drugs.

So police were called to her school and subjected her to an intimate body search without any other adults present.

The incident took place almost two years ago but only came to light in March this year after a safeguarding report was published. This Site has previously reported on the incident here.

The Local Child Safeguarding Practice Review found that the strip search should never have happened, was unjustified, and racism “was likely to have been an influencing factor”.

“Four constables have now been advised that they are being investigated for potential breaches of the police standards of professional behaviour at the level of gross misconduct,” the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) said.

However, it added that this “does not necessarily mean that disciplinary proceedings will follow”.

“We are looking at complaints that her mother was not given the opportunity to be present during the strip search, and that there was no other appropriate adult present,” it added.

“We are also considering whether the child’s ethnicity played a part in the officers’ decision to strip search her.”

If the officers are found to have breached policing standards, they could be dismissed from their jobs.

Source: Investigation launched against four Met Police officers who strip-searched black schoolgirl

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Police who stop-searched UK athletes could lose their jobs

Remember when Metropolitan Police officers dragged UK sprinter Bianca Williams and her partner out of their car and away from their three-month-old child on false claims that they could smell cannabis?

Nearly two years after the incident, five officers involved will face gross misconduct charges that could lead to them being sacked. Another officer will face a charge of misconduct.

It is understood that a disciplinary panel will also consider whether racial discrimination played any part in the actions of some of the officers, who deny wrongdoing and insist they will contest the charges.

This Site reported on the incident when it happened.

Ms Williams and her partner Ricardo Dos Santos were stopped at 1.20pm on July 4, 2020 in Maida Vale, north-west London, by officers from the Met’s Territorial Support Group. He was driving and she was in the back with their child.

Reports of a police statement at the time claimed,

The Met said the vehicle had blacked-out windows and was “driving suspiciously”, including being on the wrong side of the road. It said when officers indicated for it to stop, the car sped off. Officers caught up with the vehicle when it stopped on Lanhill Road, but the driver initially refused to get out of the car, the Met said.

The occupants, a 25-year-old man and a 26-year-old woman, were detained for the purposes of a search under section 1 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, the statement continued. After nothing was found on their person or in the vehicle, no arrests were made and the pair were released.

It was also alleged that the officers justified their search by claiming they could smell cannabis.

Both athletes are trained by the former Olympic champion Linford Christie, who accused police of institutional racism, and they also said they believed racism played a part in the incident.

In a statement, Christie asked,

“Can Cressida Dick [then Met Police Commissioner, who spoke in support of her officers’ behaviour] or anyone please explain to me what justification the Met Police officers had in assaulting the driver, taking a mother away from her baby all without one piece of PPE and then calling the sniffer dog unit to check the car over?

“Was it the car that was suspicious or the black family in it which led to such a violent confrontation and finally an accusation of the car smelling of weed but refusing to do a roadside drug test?

“This is not the first time this has happened (second time in two months) and I’m sure it won’t be the last but this type of abuse of power and institutionalised racism cannot be justified or normalised any long #BLM #MetPoliceRacist.”

A few days later, the Met referred the incident to the Independent Office of Police Conduct, which has taken two years to deliver its findings.

This Writer’s personal opinion is that I would want access to every piece of evidence used in the case, when the disciplinary panel comes to hear it, because I simply don’t trust the institutions involved to make a correct decision without public supervision.

I have grave doubts about the reasons the Met gave to justify chasing, stopping and searching these athletes’ car, and there is also the matter of the distress caused to them as they were separated from their very young child.

The IOPC’s recommendation is a step in the right direction. But will it be a case of one step forward, two steps back?

Source: Police who handcuffed Bianca Williams to face gross misconduct charge | UK news | The Guardian

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Child Q: is ‘lack of urgency’ minister waiting for inquiry to get police off the hook?

Kit Malthouse: does he look like he cares about anything?

Policing minister Kit Malthouse has been – rightly – slammed for repeatedly saying the Government must wait for the outcome of a police watchdog report into the traumatic strip search of a black schoolgirl.

In December 2020, police – two male, two female – were called by teachers at a secondary school in Hackney, who believed a girl was carrying drugs because they could smell cannabis.

She was subjected to what seems clearly a deliberately humiliating strip-search. She was made to strip naked, to spread her legs, to use her hands to spread her buttock cheeks and then to cough.

She was menstruating. According to family members, the police insisted that she take off the bloody pad and would not let her go to the toilet to clean up. Then they made her reuse the same pad.

No drugs were found, yet the rumour spread around the school that this perfectly innocent girl was a drug dealer.

The experience left the girl traumatised, in therapy and self-harming.

Answering an urgent question in Parliament, Malthouse condemned the “distressing” incident, saying she “could have been any one of our relatives”.

But he insisted that the government had to wait for a report into the incident, on which the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has already been working for 10 months.

He said the police officers involved had a right to “due process”, which is all well and good – but justice delayed is justice denied, and doesn’t Child Q have a right to justice?

And despite a safeguarding review into the matter producing a series of recommendations for the Government and police to act upon, Malthouse insisted there was doubt whether the police have a specific problem or a systemic problem relating to their policies and practices.

“It is the role of the independent police watchdog – the Independent Office for Police Conduct – to investigate serious matters involving the police and the IOPC has said it has been investigating the actions of the Metropolitan police in this particular case,” he said.

“We must let the IOPC conclude its work. We would, of course, expect any findings to be acted upon swiftly but it’s vital that we don’t prejudge the IOPC’s investigations or prejudice due process – so it would be wrong for me to make any comment on the case in question at this time.”

This Writer wonders whether Malthouse is simply hoping the IOPC will find a way to exonerate the officers involved (one of whom, it seems, was male – in a gross violation of police rules).

And he did not respond to a call to publish data on the number of times children are strip-searched. Why not?

Other MPs saw matters differently – not that he should not comment until the inquiry had been completed but that he should life a finger or two to bring the matter to that conclusion:

Labour MP for Eltham, Clive Efford, criticised Mr Malthouse for having a “wait and see attitude”, and said: “I feel like we’ve woken the minister from an afternoon nap to come in and make this statement”.

He added: “There’s a complete lack of urgency in his approach. It is quite clear that there are areas now where the Government can act; why isn’t the minister coming to this house to explain to us just exactly what he’s going to do, rather than this wait and see attitude?”

It seems clear that Malthouse’s fellow Tories felt no need to enact justice for Child Q. Only one Conservative MP turned up to the discussion – Jackie Doyle-Price – and her contribution was to ask what the minister would do to ensure the Metropolitan Police changes its practices.

Underlying this lack of activity there must be the same question that underlies the reasons for the humiliation and trauma of the strip-search of a menstruating teenage girl.

Is it because she is black?

Source: Child Q: Minister slammed for ‘lack of urgency’ over police strip-search of Black girl

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After black girl was strip-searched at school, can the Tories really deny structural racism?

No to racism: but Boris Johnson is widely-held to be a huge racist himself, so his government’s response to accusations of structural racism in the UK’s institutions may not be a surprise.

Let’s set the scene:

One investigation by the City & Hackney Safeguarding Children Partnership has happened and its report has formed the basis of news coverage. Another, by the Independent Office of Police Conduct, was started in May and is in the process of being finalised. The three officers directly involved – one of whom, it appears, was male – remain on full duties. Why?

This incident occurred in December 2020, when police – two male, two female – were called by teachers at a secondary school in Hackney, who believed she was carrying drugs because they could smell cannabis.

She was then subjected to what seems clearly a deliberately humiliating strip-search. Labour MP Diane Abbott puts it straight:

She was made to strip naked, to spread her legs, to use her hands to spread her buttock cheeks and then to cough. She was menstruating. According to family members, the police insisted that she take off the bloody pad and would not let her go to the toilet to clean up. Then they made her reuse the same pad.

No drugs were found, yet the rumour spread around the school that this perfectly innocent girl was a drug dealer. Her mother told the local child safeguarding review that the experience had left her daughter traumatised. Her aunt added: “I see the change from a happy-go-lucky girl to a timid recluse that hardly speaks to me.” She said the girl was now in therapy and that she self-harms.

The search took place without the presence of an appropriate adult – a person to safeguard the interests, rights, entitlements and welfare of children who are suspected of a criminal offence, by ensuring that they are treated in a fair and just manner and are able to participate effectively. Teachers were outside the room and parents of the girl, known as Child Q, knew nothing about the incident at the time.

The report by the City & Hackney Safeguarding Children Partnership (CHSCP) contains the following further findings:

  • The police officers involved should have contacted superior officers for permission before carrying out the strip-search; there is no evidence that this happened.
  • The person conducting the search must be of the same sex as the person being searched; if three police officers are under investigation but only two of those who arrived at the school were female, then we must question whether a male officer was involved.
  • Searches involving exposure of intimate parts of the body must not be conducted as a routine extension of a less thorough search, simply because nothing is found in the course of the initial search; this one was.
  • Searches involving exposure of intimate parts of the body may be carried out only at a nearby police station or other nearby location which is out of public view (but not a police vehicle); it appears this one was not.
  • It is likely that school staff knew a further search of Child Q would be undertaken by the attending officers, but it is unlikely that the school was informed by the attending police officers of the intention to strip-search Child Q.
  • It is likely that the importance of the Appropriate Adult role was insufficiently explained to either Child Q or the school staff present.
  • There is no evidence that Child Q was resistant to the search undertaken by school staff or that there were any indicators in her behaviour that she might be hiding drugs on her person.

We now discover that the IOPC investigation began in May last year – 10 months ago – after a referral from the Met to check whether “legislation, policies and procedures” were followed. The three officers concerned were informed that they were being investigated for misconduct.

One wonders why it has taken 10 months – so far – and still failed to come to a conclusion.

In such situations – where discrimination has been alleged – statutory guidance calls for an investigation into gross misconduct, rather than just misconduct – and this has now been requested by London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

There is so much wrong with this case that it is hard to know where to start.

Paramount must be the question of whether Child Q would have suffered anything like the same traumatic experience if she had been white.

The CHSCP report makes it clear that “racism (whether deliberate or not) was likely to have been an influencing factor in the decision to undertake a strip search”.

And this all came into public knowledge right before the government announced its response to an inquiry that found that there is no structural racism in the UK’s institutions.

The document, ironically (it seems) entitled Inclusive Britain, took a panning from the pundits on the BBC’s Politics Live yesterday. This is a seven-minute clip but it is well worth watching in full:

 

The report contains 70 recommendations but they are vague: the government will stop using the acronym “BAME” (Black And Minority Ethnic), it will create a few panels and do some research, have some pilot schemes and create some frameworks.

Stella Creasy’s comment from the top of this article was taken from this discussion. She made it clear that after what happened to Child Q, politicians “pontificating about whether or not we have an issue with structural racism doesn’t feel very real”.

The report, as Ms Creasy said, does not accord with what people in communities are saying.

Its measures do nothing to deal with racism but are simply “tinkering round so the government can feel like it is doing something”.

And apparently it even denies that slavery happened!

Given the humiliation and traumatisation of Child Q because of a smell, one cannot see this as anything but another slap in the face of people who suffer racism – and of those of us who want to end it.

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Why is Twitter blocking searches for photos and videos of Matt Hancock? Political bias?

Smug little cheat: and Matt Hancock seems to have reason to be cocky, what with Twitter suppressing embarrassing photo and video searches.

There is no reason for Twitter to do this – other than political bias.

Read:

I’ve checked and it is accurate. Photo and video searches using Hancock’s name have been disabled.

Twitter users may wish to inquiry of @TwitterSupport just why it is supporting an unfaithful husband who breaks his own safety rules, thereby increasing the risk of contracting a potentially fatal disease that has been blighting the world for a year and a half.

What’s the strategy there, Twitter?

Are you convinced by the Met police’s excuse for incident with Linford Christie athletes?

I’m not.

The Metropolitan Police say they were well within their rights to stop – and handcuff – athletes Ricardo dos Santos and Bianca Williams while their three-month-old son was left in their car.

Linford Christie – yes, that Linford Christie, the UK’s most successful sprinter, and a mentor of both athletes – posted video of the incident on Twitter. It’s quite disturbing:

He also posted a statement:

“Two of my athletes were stopped by the police today [July 4], both international athletes, both parents of a three month old baby who was with them and both handcuffed outside of their home,” he wrote.

“Can Cressida Dick or anyone please explain to me what justication the Met Police officers had in assaulting the driver, taking a mother away from her baby all without one piece of PPE and then calling the sniffer dog unit to check the car over?

“Was it the car that was suspicious or the black family in it which led to such a violent confrontation and finally an accusation of the car smelling of weed but refusing to do a roadside drug test?

“This is not the first time this has happened (second time in two months) and I’m sure it won’t be the last but this type of abuse of power and institutionalised racism cannot be justified or normalised any long #BLM #MetPoliceRacist.”

Now here’s the Met’s rationalisation:

The stop took place at about 1.25pm and was executed by the Territorial Support Group, which was patrolling the area in response to an increase in violence involving weapons.

The Met said the vehicle had blacked-out windows and was “driving suspiciously”, including being on the wrong side of the road. It said when officers indicated for it to stop, the car sped off. Officers caught up with the vehicle when it stopped on Lanhill Road, but the driver initially refused to get out of the car, the Met said.

The occupants, a 25-year-old man and a 26-year-old woman, were detained for the purposes of a search under section 1 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, the statement continued. After nothing was found on their person or in the vehicle, no arrests were made and the pair were released.

Has anyone seen evidence that these athletes were driving on the wrong side of the road? I haven’t.

And the “blacked-out windows” excuse has been used on black people before – and been found to be false, with the tints found to be within legal levels.

“The car sped off.” Did it, though? If you’re travelling in a built-up area – in London! – and the police turn up behind you, telling you to stop, it seems unlikely that’ you’re going to get too far. Maybe that’s just my impression.

Linford Christie is, of course, intimately familiar with institutional racism, after he won Olympic Gold in the 100m in August 1992 and the press belittled the achievement – he was only the second British athlete to manage it since Harold Abrahams in 1924 – by cultivating an unhealthy obsession with his euphemistically-titled “lunchbox”.

I think there’s more to this than the Met have admitted and the facts should come out.

Why did police really stop this car?

Was it because the occupants were black?

Reports say the couple are seriously considering taking the Met to court and I think they should. Agreed?

Source: Met police deny misconduct after Linford Christie athletes stopped | UK news | The Guardian

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The Tory disablist double-bind: risk your life at work – or risk it by being denied benefits


Isn’t this the Conservative government turning the screw on people with disabilities – and on parents – yet again?

People could be forced to take on work that places their health at risk or face losing their benefits as the government’s suspension to job-seeking requirements for benefit claimants is set to come to an end within days.

The government announced in March that the requirement for people receiving universal credit to prove that they are looking for work – which would currently apply to more than 2 million people on the benefit – would be paused for three months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This suspension is set to end next Tuesday, meaning millions of people will need to prove they are actively seeking work or face being sanctioned and losing their financial support.

Charities are concerned that people who are shielding or suffer from underlying health conditions would face an “uphill struggle” to find suitable work – and may potentially accept jobs that place their health at risk in order to avoid benefit sanctions.

There are also mounting concerns that ongoing disruption to schools and childcare options mean people may need to care for their children during the time they could otherwise spend working or applying for jobs, which could result in them being sanctioned.

It’s a classic double-bind.

Either people with disabilities put their health – possibly their lives – at risk in work that could even lead to their deaths…

Or they forfeit their chance to get state benefits, putting their health – possibly their lives – at risk.

Disablism in action.

Source: People could be forced to take on jobs that place health at risk as suspension on benefit sanctions set to end | The Independent

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Police service rejects new powers lowering bar for stop and search

West Midlands Police was among the services included in a pilot scheme to lower the level of authorisation needed for stop-searches – but didn’t take up the extension of powers at all.

Police and crime commissioner David Jamieson said Home Secretary Priti Patel’s decision to expand the pilot scheme nationwide suggested she had not bothered to examine its findings.

He said West Midlands police did not use the extra powers because they didn’t need to – and condemned the extension announcement as an attempt to get headlines ahead of an election.

Amazingly, considering his comments, the Home Office has asserted that all forces involved in the pilot had said they are “using some or both”* of the relaxed restrictions on powers.

West Midlands police have refused to take up an offer of new powers to make it easier for officers to conduct stop and searches.

The force was included in a pilot scheme to lower the level of authorisation needed for such searches, but data shows officers still sought approval from assistant chief constables.

Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act allows officers to search anyone in a designated area without suspicion for a defined period if police anticipate serious violence.

On Sunday the home secretary, Priti Patel, announced a nationwide extension of the pilot scheme lowering the authorisation needed for a section 60 from a senior officer to an inspector.

Source: Police force declines new powers lowering bar for stop and search | Law | The Guardian

*Whatever that means!

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Johnson announces new prison places and extension of stop/search police powers. Why?

Is this just electioneering?

An extra 10,000 new prison places will be created and stop-and-search powers expanded, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised.

The first new prison in the £2.5bn programme will be at HMP Full Sutton in Yorkshire, where expansion plans have previously been announced.

Last month, the government also pledged to recruit 20,000 extra police officers, nearly replacing the number of officers lost since the Conservatives returned to power.

But the 20,000 new police places were quickly debunked; the additions will add nothing to police ranks once natural wastage has been taken into account.

The Ministry of Justice has already said it was on course to create 3,360 places at two new prisons by 2023 and the Prison Reform Trust said the suggestion that all 10,000 newly-announced places really were new was “misleading” given earlier announcements.

The trust said prisons needed 12,000 more places just to eliminate overcrowding and accommodate new prisoners who have already been sentenced – and the announcement would increase the use of imprisonment before the capacity to provide it had been created.

As for stop-and-search powers – these had been reined in by Theresa May’s government after it was revealed that they are sometimes misused and that they disproportionately target black people – who were 9.5 times more likely to be searched than white people.

Now, a pilot scheme making it easier for police to search people without reasonable suspicion, in places where serious violence may occur, is being extended to all 43 forces across England and Wales.

But the results of the pilot scheme are not fully known yet. It is possible that the new measure will expose innocent citizens to even more abuse.

And this is the reason some commentators believe these pledges are just electioneering ploys.

They believe it is more likely that Boris Johnson wants his government to present the appearance of being tough on crime, in order to gain an electoral advantage.

The aim may be to contrive a public relations victory – painting the Tories as the “Party of Law and Order” once again, while Labour would be cast as opponents of these measures.

But Labour has in fact been calling for action to tackle violent crime for a considerable period of time.

The all-party Parliamentary group on knife crime was founded (and is chaired) by Labour MP Sarah Jones.

When she appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour on Sunday evening (August 11), it seemed clear that she did not approve of the measures announced by Mr Johnson and his Home Secretary, Priti Patel.

So perhaps this is just an election strategy. We’ll find out soon.

Source: PM to create 10,000 new prison places and extend stop-and-search – BBC News

If right-wing hate propagandists are manipulating the Internet, how do we stop them?

Google has ‘a terrible problem’ with its search algorithm being manipulated by the far right, said data scientist Cathy O’Neil [Image: Yui Mok/PA].

Google has ‘a terrible problem’ with its search algorithm being manipulated by the far right, said data scientist Cathy O’Neil [Image: Yui Mok/PA].

Bizarrely, this manipulation by right-wing hate-propagandists could have a beneficial effect – Google may end up employing human editors to ensure the company evades any… legal entanglements.

But the issue of fake news is huge. Tom Watson may have made a fool of himself, attacking The Canary for no very good reason, but there is a serious point here.

If right-wing manipulators are spreading disinformation, they are to be countered – or people will make political decisions based on this nonsense and who knows where we’ll end up?

The article states that Jonathan Albright, assistant professor of communications at Elon University, North Carolina, said right wing websites had launched a new “information war”, and were winning.

His research has shown that fake news and information is a far bigger structural problem than had been previously realised. He has mapped a “vast satellite system that is encroaching on the mainstream news system”.

Websites propagating extreme right wing propaganda have thrown out thousands of hyperlinks that connect to each other and to mainstream news sources, such as YouTube and Facebook, and he says they “are growing in strength and influence every day”.

How do we fight this?

Google must urgently review its search ranking system because of “compelling” evidence that it is being “manipulated and controlled” by rightwing propagandists, leading academics have said, after the Observer reported that hate sites are now dominating searches on Muslims, Jews, Hitler and women.
Cathy O’Neil, a data scientist and the author of Weapons on Math Destruction, said that unless Google acknowledged responsibility for the problem, it would be a “co-conspirator” with the propagandists. “This is the end for Google pretending to be a neutral platform,” she said. “It clearly has a terrible problem here and it has to own and acknowledge that.

“It simply can’t go on pretending that it has no editorial responsibilities when it is delivering these kinds of results. It is simply not defensible for it go on claiming ‘plausible deniability’. It has clearly become a conduit for rightwing hate sites and it must urgently take action.”

Google had removed the lines suggesting that Jews and black people are evil and that blacks “commit more crimes”, but it is still suggesting Muslims were “bad” and that Islam “should be destroyed”. While Facebook has faced criticism in the wake of revelations about how the site had become a conduit for fake news, the problem facing Google is potentially even more intractable.

Source: Google ‘must review its search rankings because of rightwing manipulation’ | Technology | The Guardian

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