RLC in the Media: Children face ‘potentially unlawful’ and ‘invasive’ drug and alcohol testing at festival

One in 10 children at a Sydney under-age music festival faced random drug testing that has been labelled by legal experts “potentially unlawful” and an infringement on civil liberties.

Andrew Taylor reports for The Sydney Morning Herald

In addition to the tongue swipes for drugs, organisers of the Lost City music festival for 13 to 17-year olds at the Sydney Showground on Saturday also estimated one in five teenagers would face random breathalysing for alcohol when they entered or during the event.

The Sun-Herald asked NSW Police if there would be sniffer dogs at the event and whether police would conduct strip searches. A spokesman said: “NSW Police will have a presence at this event, which will include drug detection dogs,”

Samantha Lee, police accountability solicitor at the Redfern Legal Centre, said the measures were “potentially unlawful” and jeopardised the safety of young people.

“This weekend, young people still considered minors under the law – and without a parent or guardian present – are about to be subjected to invasive drug and alcohol testing usually restricted to roadside use or conducted on people operating dangerous workplace machinery,” she said.

“Upon entry to the festival, these young people will be confronted by drug dogs, police and security with no understanding of their legal rights, and no one present to advocate on their behalf.”

Adults, including parents, were not allowed into the festival.

A NSW police watchdog inquiry heard in December three examples of boys aged between 15 and 17 being told to touch their genitalia during searches at last year’s Lost City Festival. None of the boys were found with illegal drugs and each denied having been contact with drugs.

“We all want young people to be safe, but subjecting young people to potentially unlawful and invasive procedures is making them unsafe,” Ms Lee said.

Read the full article here (The Sydney Morning Herald, 23 February 2020)