Mother says she was forced to strip naked in Greater Manchester Police cell.
A mother told Sky News she was forced to strip naked in a police cell and threatened by officers to drop complaints she had made against them.
Dannika Stewart says her complaints against Greater Manchester Police (GMP) led to her being detained and humiliated in a cell, and she was told, “You need to drop all your complaints against the police”.
She told Sky News: “They’ll just be after me now. They will always be after me. I’m scared of what they will do next.”
Former GMP detective Maggie Oliver says she believes Dannika is among several complainants “targeted” for “standing up to the police”.
Dannika is the subject of an inquiry by Dame Vera Baird, triggered last year after an investigation by Sky News into police strip searches and the treatment of women in custody.
The review will be published soon and will criticise the police complaints system, Sky News understands.
Dannika agreed to tell Sky News her story before the Baird review’s publication.
In March 2022, she reported an alleged sexual crime committed against a young person. She felt it wasn’t being investigated adequately, so she complained to the police watchdog, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).
In one complaint, she told them she had a recording on her phone of a police officer admitting failures.
Three months later, she was told police wanted to speak to her, so she went to Pendleton police station in Greater Manchester. Here, she was arrested.
The man she had accused of a sex crime had accused her of blackmail. Inside a police cell, she says she was told to strip naked, and if she didn’t, it would be done to her.
She believes the police were looking to recover her phone recording of the officer from the SIM.
She had handed the phone in without its SIM after her arrest.
She said: “So I took my tracksuit bottoms off, which I knew they would take away from me anyway. I took my leggings off and then took my knickers off, and I’m just sat there naked.”
She said she was left naked while officers walked in and out of the cell, with one female officer staring at her breasts.
“It’s all about power,” she said. “Because when I left the police station that day, the sergeant on the desk said, ‘You need to drop all your complaints against the police’.”
She added: “They needed to show me who was boss. They needed to control what I was doing.”
Ms Oliver, who resigned from GMP over a decade ago after blowing the whistle on police failures, supports Dannika through the Maggie Oliver Foundation.
She told Sky News: “Dannika became a target of that police force. She was seen as a threat to Greater Manchester Police.
“And what they did, they decided they would lock her up. I believe that was so they could seize a phone that she had disclosed to the IOPC she had evidence on of her mistreatment.”
She added: “Just like in the Post Office, it is about concealing what is happening. It is trying to protect an organisation’s reputation as a compelling public body.”
In October 2022, Dannika filed another complaint to the IOPC about the strip search.
Like her previous complaints, this was passed on to an internal police investigation team within GMP’s professional standards department.
Their report stated: “A strip search was not conducted nor requested. I understand you removed the phone upon request in custody and removed your outer clothing so you could change into alternative clothing that GMP supplied due to a cord in your bottoms.”
Dannika says CCTV would show she didn’t change into GMP clothing, and audio from the custody suite would capture her being told to strip naked for a search.
However, despite exercising her right to ask for the footage from the custody suite, the police did not provide it.
After her complaint was dismissed, she approached the Greater Manchester Combined Authority to review how the complaint had been handled.
Deputy mayor for Safer and Stronger Communities, Kate Green, conducted the review and found that the investigating officer “did not review the CCTV footage from Ms Stewart’s time in custody or provide her with an explanation as to why he did not review the CCTV footage or the audio recordings”.
The investigator seemed to have asked officers what happened and accepted their version of events, leading to Ms Green’s conclusion that Dannika’s complaint should be upheld.
After another request for the CCTV, Dannika was told that the footage had been corrupted.
Over this time, Dannika was kept on bail for 13 months over the blackmail allegations, remaining under the threat of prosecution and jail.
She worried about losing her son and discovered officers had complained about her to social services, saying she was being “obstructive” to the initial investigation that she had instigated by reporting the alleged sex crime.
The IOPC reviewed the information in children’s services documentation and confirmed that “obstructive” was used on a child and family assessment and in a child protection plan.
A note within the plan reads, “The police have described Dannika as obstructive”.
The IOPC found no explanation for this and has recently ordered an investigation into this, along with eight other complaints by Dannika about how the police dealt with her allegations.
Ms Oliver added: “Many of the victims that I speak to fear that they will lose their child or children, and I know that that is a tool that is used. And we need to make sure we have a complaints system that is truly independent.”
Dannika says the problem is that complaints through the independent watchdog website first go directly to the professional standards teams within the local force.
She told Sky News: “If there were a robust and fit-for-purpose complaints system, the police wouldn’t have known about the complaints I was placing.
“With the evidence I had, the complaints were of such a serious nature that an independent body should have investigated.”
For example, one of her initial complaints about the failed investigation went directly to the officer she was complaining about, who called her up about the complaint.
Dannika also complained about this in an email to GMP, saying, “How can she investigate her conduct? I don’t understand. Is this allowed?”
In response, GMP said the complaint “was originally to be service recovered, and this is usually done in the format that the officer contacts the complainant to try and discuss the complaint and resolve, however in this case, this hasn’t worked, and your complaint is now under review by the district”.
Dannika says she was never contacted by “the district.”
A GMP spokesperson told Sky News: “Three things drive Greater Manchester Police activity: fighting, preventing and reducing crime, keeping people safe and caring for victims. Where we are not successful, we admit our failings and work transparently within governance and regulatory arrangements to redress what has gone wrong.
“Miss Stewart’s complaints continue to be reviewed by Dame Vera Baird and the Professional Standards Directorate. Until these reviews have concluded and reported their findings to Miss Stewart, the force wouldn’t be proper to comment publicly.
“Miss Stewart has been provided with information relating to some of the allegations within her complaints, but if she would like additional updates on the progression of others, she is welcome to contact the Professional Standards Directorate.”
The IOPC issued a statement to Sky News: “Forces deal with the vast majority of complaints and are only referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct if they meet criteria set out in law.
“The new complaints system has simplified the process of making a complaint, making it more accessible to members of the public dissatisfied with the service they receive from a police force.
“In many cases, if a complainant is dissatisfied with the outcome, they will have the right to have the force’s handling of the matter reviewed. In the most serious cases, this will be done by the IOPC and ensures independent system oversight.”
The blackmail charges against Dannika were recently dropped. She says she has never been provided with evidence of what precisely the blackmail charges entailed.
Some parts of the body-worn camera during her arrest and her police interview have been given to Dame Vera as part of her inquiry into the treatment of women in custody, but not the CCTV from the custody suite.
Dame Vera is due to report within the next two months.