Inquiry to examine strip-searches of women by Greater Manchester police

Dame Vera Baird KC to lead independent review into force’s treatment of women in custody

The mayor of Greater Manchester has launched an independent inquiry into the treatment of women in custody with a focus on strip-searches.

The former victims commissioner Dame Vera Baird KC was asked last month to examine three cases of women who accused Greater Manchester police of unjustified intimate searches.

One of the women, Zayna Iman, told Sky News she was drugged and sexually assaulted while in custody in February 2021.

On Friday the office of Andy Burnham, the metro mayor for the area, said the review had been widened to include care given to all female detainees and how the forces assess complaints after women are released.

The terms of reference for the review said it would assess whether there had been inequality in the treatment of men and women in custody, as well as the prevalence of women arrested after reporting a crime.

It will also examine potential “distinct cultural issues/practices” at Pendleton police station in Salford.

Baird said Burnham and the deputy mayor, Kate Green, “were very concerned by recent media reports which could seriously put at risk public confidence and particularly that of women, in reporting crime or having any other contact with Greater Manchester police”.

She said the review would focus on strip-searches as well as “issues around mental health in custody, compliance with legislation and regulation and how complaints in respect of these issues are dealt with”.

Baird, who is also a former police and crime commissioner and was solicitor general for England and Wales in the last Labour government, added: “I will look not only at the events in the media but collect experiences and information widely in order to answer whether women’s rights, their safety and their dignity are being appropriately honoured and protected by this force.”

Voluntary groups who work with women and girls in Manchester will take part in the review.

Two of the reported incidents are alleged to have taken place between 2020 and 2022 while the force was in special measures. Iman’s complaint is also the subject of a review by the Independent Office for Police Conduct.

Announcing the inquiry, Green said it would “leave no stone unturned to establish what happened and what must be learned”.

She added: “The safety of women and girls is a huge priority for the mayor and me. We have made no secret of that before and it remains as important as ever. That is why we have acted quickly so we can be sure that women and girls have confidence that they will be treated with dignity by Greater Manchester police if they report a crime, or are taken into custody, and that actions of staff are appropriate.

“Ultimately, women and girls must have confidence in their police force, particularly when reporting crime, and we want the Baird inquiry to help enhance this.”


Matthew Weaver

The GuardianTramp

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