'I cried when I saw the community response to Child Q,' says Camden mayor

Opening of Rhyl Community Primary School, Grafton Road NW5 on 11.03.22. Special guest Cllr Sabrina F

Cllr Sabrina Francis, Mayor of Camden, at the opening of Rhyl Community Primary School - Credit: Polly Hancock

Camden's mayor has said how profoundly shocked she was by the strip searching of Child Q by a Met Police officer.

Cllr Sabrina Francis was taking part on a council debate on tackling race inequality in Camden.

The Labour mayor spoke of the "unconscious adultification" of young Black children and asked what the council could do to help them have a childhood as long as white children.

Child Q was wrongly accused of carrying cannabis by a teacher at her Hackney school and subjected to an intimate search by two police officers.

Cllr Francis said it was the "truly most shocking inappropriate thing I've ever heard in my life".

She added: "I'm not ashamed to say every single time I saw it in the news I cried and I cried when I heard the powerful response from her community and saw people condemning it and be quite clear, quite frankly, that it would never have happened to a white girl."

Cllr Francis spoke of the "stark reminder" of casual racism she encountered at an event in Wandsworth where "I was repeatedly asked if I was really a mayor", in a room full of other mayors.

She told the council meeting on April 6 that often "we forget issues happen in our own backyard", referencing an incident in 2020 when armed police came to the home of a Camden resident because "a description of a Black man with a gun was given" and it was "her own child".

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She said it was an "unconscious adultification" whereby Black girls and boys are seen as older than they are.

Young Black girls are seen as street wise and as women, she said, that leads to victimisation, not being taken seriously and "a lack of understanding when we're assaulted", or "groomed", while "Black boys are seen as a threat and often seen as men as young as the age of 10".

"We know that leads to increased sentences and increased use of discipline when they are in the education system," she added.

"We all have to think carefully as to what that does to our children, and what we're robbing them of and what we can do as a council, and maybe even contribute some ideas on how we can reach the stage where Black children can have a childhood and be children just as long as white children."