RLC in the Media: Lawyer calls for wind back of NSW strip-search laws

Redfern Legal Centre has called for changes to NSW’s strip-search laws, after police targeted commuters at major Sydney train stations on Thursday. 

Heath Parkes-Hupton reports for Central Sydney

Makeshift “privacy screens” were erected and sniffer dogs were used at Central and Redfern stations during the operation, which resulted in the arrest of several people who were allegedly caught in possession of illicit drugs.

It was the second time in as many months that Police Transport Command officers had carried out such an operation at Central station, a move which first sparked controversy on March 13.

RLC police powers solicitor, Samantha Lee said the erection of privacy screens suggested police assumed that strip-searches would have to be carried out, an act she said should only be done under “exceptional circumstances”. She argued that was a violation of legislation that is meant to set a “high bar” for public searches.

“There’s a presumption that no one should have to be searched unless police have reasonable suspicion,” she said. “It’s not meant to be the first port of call.”

Ms Lee said such searches were meant to take place in a private place, under legislation set out in the Law Enforcement Powers and Responsibilities Act — however, the legislation did not define what a “private place” is.

She argued that being searched behind a thin screen set up in a busy train station was far from private, calling the process “harmful”.

“There is nothing private about being searched at one of Australia’s busiest train stations. The public can see under and around the screens, and even a silhouette of those behind the screen.”

Read the full article at: Daily Telegraph (5 May 2019)