RLC in the Media: The Guardian - NSW police strip-searched 96 children in past year, some as young as 11
Police in New South Wales have continued to strip-search dozens of children, some as young as 11, despite widespread condemnation of the controversial practice.
Michael McGowan reports for The Guardian.
New data obtained by the Redfern Legal Centre via state freedom of information laws revealed that in the past year, NSW police conducted 96 strip-searches on children.
A disproportionate number of those – about 21% – were Indigenous, including one case in which an 11-year-old was strip-searched by police. The new data also revealed Indigenous Australians of all ages continue to be disproportionately subjected to strip searches by police.
The proportion of searches carried out on Indigenous Australians of all ages rose from 9% to 13% between 2018-19 and 2019-20. In Dubbo, a regional city in the state’s west, Indigenous Australians made up two-thirds of the total number of strip-searches carried out despite only representing about 20% of the population.
Together with law firm Slater and Gordon, the Redfern Legal Centre is currently investigating a possible class action lawsuit against NSW police over the alleged “systemic” misuse of strip searches in the past six years.
Sam Lee, the centre’s police powers solicitor, said the latest figures “paint a disturbing new picture of police strip-searches during Covid-19”.
“We already know that police are conducting strip searches on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at disproportionately high rates. But we now also know that this disparity is increasing,” she said.
That over-representation was also replicated in some parts of Sydney. In Surry Hills, a suburb near the city’s CBD, Indigenous people made up 14% of the total number of people strip searched. In Liverpool in the city’s west, it was 10%.
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should not have to live in fear of being strip searched by police. This harmful practice is eroding good community relations and feeds into distrust and fear of the police,” Lee said.
The new figures also come during an unfolding diplomatic incident between Australia and Qatar after a number of women were subject to intimate medical examinations while transiting through Doha international airport. The prime minister, Scott Morrison, described the invasive treatment of the women as “unacceptable” and “appalling”.
Lee said the case should turn attention to Australia’s own search laws.
“The strip search stories out of Qatar are disturbing. But Australia also has some disturbing strip search stories and harmful laws,” she said.
“Although laws vary across jurisdictions, police in all states and territories have the power to strip search children between the ages of 10 and 18. A child as young as ten can be subjected to a full body strip search, and in some circumstances, without a parent [or] guardian present.”
Read the full story here. (2 November 2020