Police Officer Cleared Of Misconduct After Authorising Strip Search Of Nottingham Lecturer

31 August 2018, 07:38 | Updated: 31 August 2018, 08:02

Dr Konstancja Duff

A custody sergeant accused of breaching police standards by authorising the strip search of a Nottingham philosophy lecturer - who went limp and refused to give her name - has been cleared of any wrongdoing.

Konstancja Duff claimed she was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and flashbacks following her detention at a London police station in May 2013.

Dr Duff - who works at the University of Nottingham - was 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.

Sergeant Kurtis Howard authorised Dr Duff's strip search after she had to be carried bodily from a police van then lay limp on the floor outside Stoke Newington police station for 15 minutes and refused to give her name.

She was later carried into the police station by four police officers where she was strip-searched.

Dr Duff made a complaint to the police watchdog a year after her arrest following her acquittal by magistrates of obstructing and assaulting police.

On Wednesday, her case against Sgt Howard after a misconduct panel found that her search was necessary as her uncooperative behaviour meant it was unclear if she posed a danger to herself or others.

Chairman Maurice Cohen said: "Dr Duff conceded that her behaviour was not her finest hour and if the circumstances were to arise again she would not behave in the same way and she concedes that it must have been very frustrating for Sgt Howard.

"Dr Duff says she was following the pattern of passive resistance and non-compliance akin to the civil rights movement."

He continued: "Sgt Howard was running a busy custody suite and his primary responsibility was the safety of the staff and detainees and must run a continuous risk assessment.

"He must consider the demeanour of a detainee, their vulnerability and whether they pose a risk to themselves or others and he was unable to ascertain from Dr Duff whether she suffered from any mental illness, other vulnerability or whether she was on drugs."

Mr Cohen said that Dr Duff's presentation at the police station had been "bizarre" and that staff had tried to treat her with dignity by crouching to her level and trying to speak with her in a non-threatening manner.

He concluded that as he was unaware whether Dr Duff may have anything on her person that she would not be allowed to have in custody, Sgt Howard's actions were those of a responsible officer.

In her evidence, Dr Duff said she had handed the teenager - who was later found to have a six-inch knife stashed in his sock - a card with legal advice aimed specifically at protesters arrested at demonstrations.

She said she feared the teenager was being unfairly targeted due to racial profiling.

She said she was acting in the spirit of "passive resistance", pioneered by the civil rights movement, by refusing to cooperate.

"I felt my arrest had been unjust, I was there for acting in passive, non-violent resistance," she said.

She added that she was following advice on the printed card, which tells detainees to answer "no comment" to all questions and not to give details such as name and address during a stop-and-search.

"I think that speaks to the political/protest-type note of what was going on - classic civil rights movement, limp passive resistance," she said.

Dr Duff also said that a lot of her behaviour in refusing to cooperate with police was down to shock at being arrested for handing someone a legal advice card.

"I wanted to speak to someone genuinely independent, either a solicitor or a doctor, it was so outside anything I had ever experienced, I was genuinely scared," she said.

Dr Duff, who was a self-employed philosophy tutor at the time of the incident, said she was unable to work for a few months after her arrest and struggled to pay her rent.

Her academic work includes papers with titles Feminism Against Crime Control: On Sexual Subordination And State Apologism and The Criminal Is Political: Policing Politics In Real Existing Liberalism.

Dr Duff later told the panel it was endorsing using "repressive and violating tactics" to "punish and intimidate" anyone who did not go along with being treated unjustly by the police.

(Picture: PA Images)