Inquiry to examine women’s treatment in Greater Manchester Police custody

The inquiry led by former victims’ commissioner Dame Vera Baird will focus on the use of strip searches and intimate checks.

The use of strip searches, intimate checks and the removal of clothing from women and girls who are arrested and taken into custody in Greater Manchester are to be the focus of a new inquiry led by a former victims’ commissioner.

Dame Vera Baird is to head up an independent inquiry into the experiences of women and girls after being asked by Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham and deputy mayor Kate Green.

It comes following reports that three women have accused Greater Manchester Police (GMP) of unjustified strip searches after being arrested.

GMP previously denied any wrongdoing by its staff.

Dame Vera said: “The mayor and deputy mayor 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.

“They have called me in to inquire into arrest, custodial practice, in particular strip searching, issues around mental health in custody, compliance with legislation and regulation, and how complaints in respect of these issues are dealt with.

“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.”

The Baird Inquiry will look at the experiences of the three complainants as it examines how widespread their experience may be and whether GMP policy and procedures are fit for purpose.

It will also assess the care given to female detainees, how effectively complaints are handled after their release and if there is any inequality between the treatment of men and women.

Representatives from voluntary and community groups which support women and girls are among those who are to give evidence.

It is aimed that the inquiry recommendation will help guide the future work of GMP around the rights, safety, care and dignity of women and girls reporting crime, on arrest and in their custody, and to enhance the confidence of women and girls in GMP.

Ms Green said: “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.”

Earlier this month the police watchdog said it had begun an investigation after a woman claimed she was stripped and sexually assaulted while in custody.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) said it received two referrals from GMP linked to complaints made by the woman regarding her detention at Pendleton police station in February 2021.

Sky News reported the 38-year-old was held for 40 hours in custody but it was claimed three hours of footage taken of her was missing and medical records showed evidence of sexual injuries.

The broadcaster said the woman was arrested at home in the early hours of February 5 2021 after she knocked the glasses off a female officer’s face during a police welfare callout over a woman reportedly high on cocaine.

The complainant is one of three women who have accused GMP of unjustified strip searches after being arrested.

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