In August, TIO covered a new report from Redfern Legal Centre which revealed Police strip searches in New South Wales have increased almost twentyfold in 12 years.
Now, police are being investigated over one strip search in particular, that of a 16-year-old female who was asked to strip naked and squat at last year’s Splendour in the Grass.
The independent inquiry by the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC) – which investigates the police – is assessing whether the police “engaged in serious misconduct” when strip searching the 16-year-old.
The teenager was strip searched without a parent or guardian present, and according to NSW law, a parent or guardian must be present if a child between 10 and 18 is strip searched.
“The strip search of a child between the ages of ten and eighteen must be conducted in the presence of a parent or guardian… or if that’s not acceptable to the person being strip searched, another person whose presence is acceptable to that person,” Counsel Assisting Peggy Dwyer told the ABC. “The child cannot waive their right to a parent, guardian or independent person.”
The teenager has delivered a statement to the commission where she said a drug dog sat down next to her while she was waiting in line to enter Splendour’s 2018 run in Byron Bay.
She said she was already separated from her friends, who were in another line, and that the police told her put her hands up while they led her to a tent away from the entry gate.
“I felt completely humiliated, people were yelling out that police had someone… I was really scared as I didn’t have drugs on me and I was alone,” she said in her statement.
After her phone was confiscated she said she began to get upset. “I became really frightened at this stage because I lost all contact with anyone I knew and I started to cry.”
A female officer asked her to remove all her clothing, including a panty liner which she was asked to remove for inspection, and told to squat down. At this point the officer squatted down to look underneath her.
No drugs were found.
According to the ABC, the inquiry is hearing from officers who conducted the strip search at Splendour in the Grass 2018.
The recent detailed research report examining police strip-search powers in New South Wales found that 277 searches took place in the 12 months to November 30th 2006, in comparison to the 5,483 in the 12 months to June 30th 2018.
Strip searches in NSW will come under the microscope next week when a strip search roundtable will take place in Sydney next Thursday morning.
Representatives from Redfern Legal Centre, Police Accountability and UNSW Faculty of Law will discuss strip search law in NSW, why strip search law needs to change and what needs to be done to change strip search law in NSW.
Strip Search Roundtable
When: Thursday 31 October
Where: DLA Piper
Level 22, No.1 Martin Place
Sydney NSW 2000
Speakers include: Samantha Lee, Solicitor, Head of Police Accountability, Redfern Legal Centre
Dr Vicki Sentas and Dr Michael Grewcock, UNSW Faculty of Law, authors of the report, Rethinking Strip Searches by NSW Police.