MPS apologises to woman 'ridiculed' during strip-search

The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) has apologised to a philosophy lecturer for language used by officers about her when she was strip-searched in an incident branded “appalling” by London’s mayor.

Jan 25, 2022
By Tony Thompson

Konstancja Duff was detained at a police station in the capital in 2013, having been arrested after trying to offer a 15-year-old a card with a list of legal advice during a stop-and-search on an East London estate.

In footage carried by the Guardian, police officers can be heard to say of Dr Duff, who is based at the University of Nottingham, “was she rank?” and “her clothes stink”.

In another clip, one officer references a “smell” and then a different officer says “Oh, it’s her knickers”.

Dr Duff, who said she had gone “limp as a form of passive resistance” when arrested, said the officers had spoken about her in a “really dehumanising way”.

She told the Guardian: “It didn’t surprise me at all really. It was absolutely obvious in the way that they treated me that that was the attitudes that they had. When you don’t consent to what the police are doing to you – even when it’s just palpably unjust – that is used to justify an escalation of force against you.”

She described being pinned to a cell floor by three officers with her hands cuffed and legs tied together.

Dr Duff, who was a self-employed philosophy tutor at the time of the incident, said the officers “cut off my clothes with scissors. The kind of overwhelming memory of that, as well as being really scared, was just the kind of physical pain of it.”

She said most people at the receiving end of such treatment “never get heard”.

She added: “So, even though talking about it is challenging, I feel lucky to be able to do that. They [the police] are being challenged on their racism, on their misogyny. So I hope that what I’m describing can be heard as part of that.”

According to the MPS, the video was released: “Following the conclusion of the civil claim, allegations of misconduct relating to these comments were referred to our directorate of professional standards and are being investigated.”

Inspector Andy O’Donnell, of the MPS’s directorate of professional standards, told Dr Duff: “I hope that settlement of this claim and this recognition of the impact of what happened that day will enable you to put this behind you.”

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said what had happened was “utterly disgraceful”. He tweeted: “I strongly condemn the derogatory and sexist actions towards Dr Duff. The Met are right to have apologised for this appalling incident. Women in our city must be able to trust the police.”

The MPS said an investigation into allegations of misconduct is ongoing. In a statement, the force said: “In November 2021, the Met settled a claim following the arrest of a woman in Hackney in May 2013. We have sincerely apologised to the complainant for the language used while she was in custody and any distress caused.

“Following the conclusion of the civil claim, allegations of misconduct relating to these comments were referred to our directorate of professional standards and are currently being investigated. This investigation remains ongoing.”

The video has emerged at a time when the MPS is dealing with a number of scandals, many linked to issues around police culture. Baroness Casey of Blackstock has been appointed to help the force root out misogyny after the Sarah Everard murder and a series of misconduct matters.

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