A new report from Redfern Legal Centre has revealed that Police strip searches in New South Wales have increased almost twentyfold in 12 years. This morning, RLCA launched a detailed research report examining police strip-search powers in New South Wales.

The report found that 277 searches took place in the 12 months to November 30th 2006 in comparison to the 5483 in the 12 months to June 30th 2018.

Police strip searches have been a point of contention in recent months after Sydney Morning Herald revealed that there was no clear legal definition of a strip-search in state legislation.

The Rethinking Strip Searches by NSW Police report launched in Sydney today. The report, prepared by UNSW Law academics Dr Michael Grewcock and Dr Vicki Sentas, states that the law fails to provide police with proper guidance on conducting a strip search procedure.

“A strip search is the most invasive form of personal search available to police without a court order,” Dr Sentas shared in a press release. “Yet over the past decade we have seen the number of strip searches continue to rise. Our findings reveal such searches are doing little to tackle serious drug crime.”

The report investigates the operation of strip search laws across Australia — specifically concerns around safeguards and transparency. It also offers recommendations on law reform. These recommendations include:

  • The law must be clearer about what, when and how police should conduct a strip search 
  • A strip search should be conducted in accordance with child protection principles
  • Strip searches of children in the field should be prohibited unless permission is obtained through a court order
  • The law should be clear that police cannot ever search genitals or breasts
  • Examples of “private places” for strip searches should be clearly defined

“Updating police education and training material will not suffice. Clear guidance about police strip search procedure needs to be driven by clear and rigorous law,” says RLC solicitor Samantha Lee. “Without law reform, we will continue to see insufficient training and poorly informed decision-making from police conducting strip searches.”

To read the full report, head here.