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'Humiliated' lecturer tells LBC Met Police are 'pathetic' for 'degrading' strip-search

26 January 2022, 15:39 | Updated: 26 January 2022, 15:51

By Sophie Barnett

A university lecturer who was subject to "sexist and derogatory" language during an "appalling" strip-search has told LBC the Met Police's efforts to humiliate her were "pathetic".

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Dr Konstancja Duff was detained at a police office in London 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 was arrested on suspicion of obstructing and assaulting police.

Nine years later, the Met Police has apologised to Dr Duff after shocking footage was released showing a sergeant ordering officers to "treat her like a terrorist".

Speaking exclusively to Shelagh Fogarty on LBC, Dr Duff said "pain and fear overwhelmed her".

She described how three female officers sat on top of her and searched her naked body, adding she "didn't know where it was going to end".

In footage obtained by the Guardian, Sgt Kurtis Howard - who was in charge of the custody area - told officers to show her "resistance is futile" and to search her "by any means necessary".

He added: "Treat her like a terrorist. I don't care."

Read more: Met police apologise to woman nine years after 'sexist and dehumanising' strip search

Staff can also be heard laughing and calling her "rank", commenting on the amount of body hair she had.

Reflecting on the incident, Dr Duff told Shelagh: "There is nothing shameful about having a body that smells and has hair and is a human body.

"There is nothing shameful about that and using that to try and humiliate someone is kind of pathetic.

"But at the same time, the fear and the violence of it and having to be on trial for it for eight years, with the victim blaming and gaslighting coming from them, it has had a really big impact on me."

Shelagh asked the professor, who is based at the University of Nottingham, to describe what happened to her.

"Can you remember?" Shelagh asked.

"I can't not remember, unfortunately. I was terrified."

"I was in a lot of pain."

Dr Duff said during the search she was pinned to a cell floor by three officers with her hands cuffed and legs tied together and her clothes cut off with scissors.

Police officers can then be heard to say "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".

"They do anything they can to humiliate you," she said, adding what they were doing was completely "unjust".

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."

Sergeant Howard was previously cleared of gross misconduct by a disciplinary panel in 2018 after claiming his actions were needed to asses any risk she posed to herself.

The force will also pay Dr Duff compensation for the horrific way she was treated at Stoke Newington police station in north-east London.

Dr Duff said what has kept her going over the last nine years is the "solidarity" from those who have supported her.

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