Scotland Yard has admitted overusing its power to strip-search children after four of its officers were told they would face disciplinary proceedings over allegations that their search of a 15-year-old black schoolgirl known as Child Q was inappropriate and amounted to discrimination owing to her race and sex.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) said three of the officers faced accusations of gross misconduct over the search, carried out at a school in Hackney, in east London, in December 2020. A fourth officer faces lesser misconduct action over the absence of an appropriate adult.

It is alleged that the decision to carry out the strip-search, while the girl was having her period, was inappropriate; that Child Q was treated differently because of her race and sex; that there was no appropriate adult present; and that the officers did not get authorisation from a supervisor.

Met bosses have agreed, at the suggestion of the IOPC, to write formal letters of apology to Child Q and her family.

“Any person subject to a search involving the exposure of intimate body parts is in a vulnerable position and they are entitled to be treated with respect and courtesy,” said the IOPC’s director, Steve Noonan, on Thursday, adding that the incident had “caused widespread concern”.

His organisation began investigating in May 2021 after Scotland Yard referred complaints on behalf of Child Q and her school. The IOPC said it was now recommending that police officers in England and Wales be made to better “understand their duties and responsibilities regarding the role of an appropriate adult during a strip-search”.

Chanel Dolcy, the solicitor for Child Q, said the family welcomed the IOPC’s decisions but were “disappointed that it has taken over two years to reach this stage in the process and that they must wait further still for the disciplinary proceedings to conclude”.

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