Met Police: force apologises to woman for ‘sexist’ derogatory’ language in strip-search

Dr Konstancja Duff has received an apology from the Met Police over the “utterly disgraceful” incident

The Met Police have apologised to Dr Konstancja Duff for language used by officers about her when she was strip-searched.The Met Police have apologised to Dr Konstancja Duff for language used by officers about her when she was strip-searched.
The Met Police have apologised to Dr Konstancja Duff for language used by officers about her when she was strip-searched.

The Met Police has apologised to a woman for “sexist, derogatory” language used about her when she was strip-searched in what has been described as an “utterly disgraceful” incident.

Dr Konstancja Duff, an assistant professor of philosophy, 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.

She went on to take civil action against the force and a claim was settled last year.

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”.

The footage also shows an officer saying to his colleagues that the search needed to be carried out “by any means necessary” and “resistance is futile”, followed by “treat her like a terrorist. I don’t care.”

‘The overwhelming memory...was just the kind of physical pain of it’

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”.

She added: “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.”

The Met apologised to her after CCTV video capturing the officers’ conversations was disclosed to her as part of a civil action against the force.

Insp Andy O’Donnell, of the Met’s directorate of professional standards, told her: “I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely and unreservedly apologise for the sexist, derogatory and unacceptable language used about you and for any upset and distress this may have caused.

“I hope that settlement of this claim and this recognition of the impact of what happened that day will enable you to put this incident behind you.”

In the CCTV clip an officer can be heard saying: resisting is futile” a comment is then made that she should be treated “like a terrorist”.

‘Women in our city must be able to trust the police’

London Mayor 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 Metropolitan Police said it had “sincerely apologised”, when asked about the incident involving Dr Duff, and that 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.”

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