Autistic girl ‘tried to kill herself after police strip search while she was menstruating’

·2-min read
The Metropolitan Police say it is investigating a complaint over a teenage girl’s strip search (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
The Metropolitan Police say it is investigating a complaint over a teenage girl’s strip search (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

A mother has claimed her autistic teenage daughter was left suicidal following a strip search by police while she was menstruating.

The 15-year-old mixed-race girl was handcuffed and had her underwear cut in front of male officers during the search, her mother told BBC’s File on 4 .

She says Olivia - not her real name - later attempted suicide. The Metropolitan Police confirmed it was investigating a complaint from the girl’s mother.

It comes after revelations about a strip search of a 15-year-old girl in east London sparked protests and widespread backlash.

The black teenager, Child Q, was strip searched by female officers in 2020 - who knew she was menstruating - after she was wrongly suspected of carrying cannabis at school.

Olivia’s mother claims she was arrested with friends in December 2020 after having a disagreement with two boys who called the police claiming they were victims of an attempted knife-point robbery.

She said her daughter was searched at the scene and nothing was found, but was still taken into custody. She claimed she warned police her daughter had autism, learning difficulties and was self-harming.

Olivia was allegedly held in custody for more than 20 hours before being found to be in possession of a sharpened stick and a small blade, which her mother said was for the purpose of self-harming.

The discovery prompted six officers to forcibly strip Olivia and carry out an intimate search in the presence of male police officers, her mother claimed.

“Olivia was actually on her period at the time too. And they cut off her underwear in front of these grown male officers,” the mother said. “She was absolutely distraught.”

Her mother told the broadcaster the experience had a devastating impact on her daughter’s mental health.

“She spent a lot of time in her room and she continued to self-harm in secret. And then, a few weeks later, she attempted suicide,” she said.

Olivia later appeared in court accused of possession of a bladed weapon and was found not guilty after magistrates accepted the items were used for self-harming, the BBC reported.

The Met’s deputy assistant commissioner told File on 4 an investigation was underway that would “determine the appropriateness of the search and the way that it was conducted”.

A spokesperson for the police confirmed it was investigating a complaint from Olivia’s mother. “We have also received notification of a potential civil claim and therefore are unable to comment further at this stage,” they added.

This article was amended on the day of publication to include information later provided by the BBC that Olivia was 15 and not 14 at the time these events are said to have taken place, and that she had been in possession of a small blade for the purposes of self-harming.

If you are experiencing feelings of distress and isolation, or are struggling to cope, The Samaritans offers support; you can speak to someone for free over the phone, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.org, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch.

For services local to you, the national mental health database- Hub of Hope - allows you to enter your postcode to search for organisations and charities who offer mental health advice and support in your area.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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