The Metropolitan Police force has apologised to an academic over “sexist, derogatory and unacceptable language” used about her during a strip-search at a north London police station.
Dr Konstancja Duff has previously described suffering lasting trauma following her treatment by police, who arrested her on suspicion of obstructing and assaulting police on 5 May 2013 after she tried to hand a “know-your-rights” legal advice card to a 15-year-old being stopped and searched in Hackney.
While Dr Duff, an assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Nottingham, was later cleared of the charges in court, she was taken to Stoke Newington police station, where her clothes were cut off with a pair of scissors after she refused to co-operate with officers.
CCTV footage recently released to her as part of a civil lawsuit against the force, which has now reportedly agreed to pay her compensation, “backed up what I had said in my statements for years and years”, Dr Duff said, alleging that she had faced “a barrage of misinformation” with claims that officers had been acting professionally out of concern for her safety.
In the footage, published by The Guardian, Sergeant Kurtis Howard, who was in charge of the custody area – and was cleared of wrongdoing by a disciplinary panel in 2018 – can be heard directing colleagues to show Dr Duff that “resistance is futile” and to search her “by any means necessary”.
“Treat her like a terrorist, I don’t care,” he adds.
Following the search, during which Dr Duff alleged she was pinned to the cell floor with her legs tied together and touched inappropriately, a male officer asks: “Didn’t find anything untoward on her, ladies?” One female officer replies: “A lot of hair.”
In another clip, one officer references a “smell”, and another says: “Oh, it’s her knickers.”
Dr Duff told The Guardian that the CCTV exchanges exposed “the culture of sexualised mockery, the dehumanising attitude” displayed while she was strip-searched, adding: “The crucial issue is that racism, misogyny [and] sexual violence, are normalised in policing.
“And the way in which they treated me, the fact that’s normal is shown by the way that at every level of the system it was rubber-stamped for eight years.”
In an apology, Inspector Andy O’Donnell from Scotland Yard’s directorate of professional standards, reportedly told Dr Duff: “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.”
UK news in pictures Show all 50 1 /50 UK news in pictures UK news in pictures 8 February 2022 Workers move a crate containing Season’s Greetings by street artist Banksy from a retail unit at Ty’r Orsaf, Port Talbot, prior to its journey to a temporary storage unit at an undisclosed location PA UK news in pictures 7 February 2022 Dog walkers enjoy the early morning sunrise at Tynemouth Beach in North Tyneside, on the north east coast of England PA UK news in pictures 6 February 2022 A Leicester City invades the pitch as Nottingham Forest celebrate scoring their side’s third goal of the game during the Emirates FA Cup fourth round match at the City Ground, Nottingham PA UK news in pictures 5 February 2022 Stadium staff remove a flare from the pitch during the Emirates FA Cup fourth round match at Selhurst Park PA UK news in pictures 4 February 2022 “The Nuba Survival” is a five-metre-tall statue of two skeletons locked in an embrace in Checkendon, Oxfordshire. The statue was created by local artist John Buckley PA UK news in pictures 3 February 2022 Kew horticulturists attending to the ‘Rising sun’ display at the Kew Orchid Festival: Costa Rica, at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, west London PA UK news in pictures 2 February 2022 Protesters campaign against corruption in London EPA UK news in pictures 1 February 2022 Lorries queue for the Port of Dover in Kent, as the Dover TAP is enforced due to the high volume of lorries waiting to cross the Channel PA UK news in pictures 31 January 2022 Nelson Beaumont-Laurencia applies finishing touches to a sculpture of a tiger, commissioned by Manchester Business Improvement District to celebrate the Chinese New Year, is unveiled in St Ann’s Square PA UK news in pictures 30 January 2022 A house on Overhill terrace in Gateshead, lost its roof on 29 January after strong winds from Storm Malik battered northern parts of the UK PA UK news in pictures 29 January 2022 A newly painted bicycle sign is seen on the middle of the road at Westminster Bridge, as the new Highway Code rules start today together with giving pedestrians priority at junctions Reuters UK news in pictures 28 January 2022 School children take part in a rally in support of British Sign Language becoming a recognised language in the UK, outside the Houses of Parliament, Westminster, as the British Sign Language Private Members’ Bill, introduced by Rosie Cooper MP, reaches its second reading in the House PA UK news in pictures 27 January 2022 A rare six-week-old southern white rhino calf called Zawadi, explores her paddock for the first time at Africa Alive! in Lowestoft PA UK news in pictures 26 January 2022 British Prime Minister Boris Johnson jogs with his dog Dilyn, in London REUTERS UK news in pictures 25 January 2022 A member of staff looks at Francis Bacon’s work ‘Second Version of Triptych 1944’ on display in the Francis Bacon: Man and Beast exhibition at the the Royal Academy of Arts in London PA UK news in pictures 24 January 2022 Rowers (front to back) Charlotte Irving, Kat Cordiner and Abby Johnston, on their way to shatter the world record for rowing across the Atlantic PA UK news in pictures 23 January 2022 A grey seal pup on the beach at Horsey Gap in Norfolk, as the pupping season draws to a close at one of the UK’s most important sites for the mammals PA UK news in pictures 22 January 2022 Participants prepare to take part in the Crisis icebreaker cold water challenge at Tooting Bec Lido in London EPA UK news in pictures 21 January 2022 Willesborough Windmill, a white smock mill built in 1869 is bathed in the morning sunshine as the moon sets behind in Ashford, Kent PA UK news in pictures 20 January 2022 A jet skier jumps the waves off the coast at Blyth in Northumberland PA UK news in pictures 19 January 2022 Britain’s Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, participate in a therapy session with individuals who have experienced the care system, during a visit to the Foundling Museum in London REUTERS UK news in pictures 18 January 2022 Surfers enter the sea as the sun rises over Tynemouth on the North East coast PA UK news in pictures 17 January 2022 Bonhams’ Danny McIlwraith holds a Nigerian polycrome carved wood mask during a photocall for the sale of the Jim Lennon Collection at Bonhams in Edinburgh PA UK news in pictures 16 January 2022 The moon rises above the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth, Hampshire PA UK news in pictures 15 January 2022 Demonstrators outside Downing Street during a ‘Kill The Bill’ protest against The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill in London PA UK news in pictures 14 January 2022 Ecologist Emma Smart (left) and retired GP Dr Diana Warner outside HMP Bronzefield, in Surrey, following their release from the prison where Emma undertook a 26-day hunger strike during her incarceration. Ms Smart was sentenced in November, along with other members of Insulate Britain, to serve four months for breaking a High Court injunction by taking part in a blockade at junction 25 of the M25 motorway during the morning rush hour on 8 October last year PA UK news in pictures 13 January 2022 A TV presenter holds a copy of a newspaper outside 10 Downing Streetafter the Prime Minister apologised for attending a gathering of colleagues in the Number Ten garden in May 2020, while the UK was in strict lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic Getty UK news in pictures 12 January 2022 Fitness guru Derrick Evans after receiving an MBE during an investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle PA UK news in pictures 11 January 2022 A couple walk underneath an umbrella during wet weather on Westminster Bridge in central London PA UK news in pictures 10 January 2022 A jogger passes the Covid Memorial Wall in London AP UK news in pictures 9 January 2021 The sun rises over horses at Seaton Sluice in Northumberland PA UK news in pictures 8 January 2022 Riders compete during the Veterans Men’s race at the UK Cyclo-Cross National Championships 2022 in Ardingly, south of London AFP/Getty UK news in pictures 7 January 2022 A dog looks out of a car window at the wintry conditions in Killeshin, Co. Laois PA UK news in pictures 6 January 2022 People walk through frost and mist alongside a frozen lake during sunrise in Bushy Park, London REUTERS UK news in pictures 5 January 2022 A skier jumps on the slopes at Allenheads in the Pennines to the north of Weardale in Northumberland PA UK news in pictures 4 January 2022 Freshly-fallen snow covers houses in Corbridge, near Hexham in Northumberland PA UK news in pictures 3 January 2022 Dean Morrison, 13, receives his Covid-19 vaccine from student nurse Anthony McLaughlin during a vaccination clinic at the Glasgow Central Mosque PA UK news in pictures 2 January 2022 Konastantinos Tsimikas of Liverpool with Chelsea’s Mason Mount during the Premier League match at Stamfrod Bridge Liverpool FC/Getty UK news in pictures 1 January 2022 New Year’s Eve Lasers, drones and fireworks illuminate the sky in front of the Royal Naval College in Greenwich shortly after midnight in London EPA UK news in pictures 31 December 2021 Competitors in fancy dress run across the Pennine tops near Haworth, West Yorkshire, in the annual Auld Lang Syne Fell race which attracts hundreds of runners every year PA UK news in pictures 30 December 2021 Sunrise at Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland PA UK news in pictures 29 December 2021 The Very Revd Dr Robert Willis, Dean of Canterbury Cathedral, looks at Becket, a six month old red-billed chough as he visits Wildwood Wildlife Park in Kent on the anniversary of the murder of Thomas Becket PA UK news in pictures 28 December 2021 Troops of the Household Cavalry are seen reflected in a puddle during the changing of the Queen’s Life Guard, on Horse Guards Parade, in central London PA UK news in pictures 27 December 2021 A pedestrian walks past a winter sale sign outside a John Lewis store on Oxford street in London Getty UK news in pictures 26 December 2021 Riders take their bikes through the snow near Castleside, County Durham PA UK news in pictures 25 December 2021 Patrick Corkery wears a santa hat and beard as waves crash over him at Forty Foot near Dublin during a Christmas Day dip PA UK news in pictures 24 December 2021 People stand inside Kings Cross Station on Christmas Eve in London Reuters UK news in pictures 23 December 2021 Christmas shoppers fill the car park at Fosse Shopping Park in Leicester PA UK news in pictures 22 December 2021 The sun rises behind the stones as people gather for the winter solstice at Stonehenge. Getty UK news in pictures 21 December 2021 People take part in a winter solstice swim at Portobello Beach in Edinburgh to mark the solstice and to witness the dawn after the longest night of the year PA
The Met said in a statement: “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.”
London mayor Sadiq Khan was among those to react with dismay on Monday to the “utterly disgraceful” incident.
“I strongly condemn the derogatory and sexist actions towards Dr Duff,” he tweeted. “The Met are right to have apologised for this appalling incident. Women in our city must be able to trust the police.”
The Independent has approached Dr Duff for comment.