Court rules on police clothes move

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Published: Thursday 19th February 2015 by The News Editor

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Concern has been expressed by the Court of Appeal over a police decision to remove the clothes of a “distressed” 14-year-old girl who had been arrested.

Merseyside Police said the clothes were removed from the Liverpool girl, referred to as “PD”, for her own protection.

Lord Justice Pitchford ruled today the police action on September 16 2010, did not amount to a breach of the Liverpool teenager’s human rights.

But he went on: “I am bound to express concern that it should have been thought appropriate immediately to remove the clothes of a distressed and vulnerable 14-year-old girl without thought for alternative and less invasive measures to protect her from herself….”

Welfare organisations fear that strip-searching or removing children’s clothes in police stations is becoming routine, possibly because officers are increasingly anxious to prevent detainees from attempting suicide.

They have called for an urgent review of the practice.

Children’s charities Children’s Rights Alliance for England and Just for Kids Law intervened in the case, arguing that the removal of PD’s clothes did not comply with procedures to minimise distress to the girl.

They said that CCTV footage of the girl, who was in a police cell, showed that she was extremely distressed, tearing her hair out and banging her head against a wall.

Lawyers for the child, identified as PD, claimed her rights to privacy under Article 8 of the European convention on human rights and the UN’s convention on the rights of the child were breached. They say greater care should have been taken to consider her vulnerability.

Lord Justice Pitchford, Lord Justice Lewison and Lord Justice Fulford unanimously rejected all grounds of challenge to the police action and said preventing the girl from harming herself was “a legitimate aim” and there was no room for finding it was disproportionate.

PD, who had a history of mental health problems, had been arrested for being drunk and disorderly outside a kebab shop in Argyle Street, Birkenhead, and was handcuffed because her behaviour was so uncontrolled and aggressive and taken to Wirral police station.

It was shortly after her clothes were removed that efforts were made to trace her mother.

Three female officers removed the girl’s clothes and put her into a gown. She was put into a gown. Her pants were removed, supposedly because it was feared she could use the elastic to hang herself. CCTV from the cell shows her ripping her hair out and banging her head against the wall – evidence, it was argued, showed that she felt degraded.

Published: Thursday 19th February 2015 by The News Editor

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