RLC in the Media: NSW Labor calls for review of strip search laws, asking ‘where’s the justification?’

Shadow police minister says police interpretation of when a strip search is justified is ‘very loose’.

Michael McGowan reports for The Guardian

The New South Wales opposition has called for a review of strip-search laws after revelations about the number of children being targeted by the controversial policing tactic.

On Thursday, Labor’s shadow police minister, Lynda Voltz, said figures revealed by Guardian Australia this week showing police in New South Wales have strip-searched 122 girls, including two 12-year-olds, in the past three years demonstrated a need for an overhaul of the laws governing the practice.

“When you have 122 girls under 18 being strip-searched, I would have thought that’s a bit exceptional,” Voltz said.

“Where’s the justification for strip-searching children of that age? I understand there may be exceptional circumstances where there’s a grave risk and you need to do it, but I would expect that number to be much lower than 122.”

Voltz said Labor would push for a review of the legislation guiding strip-searches, saying it was not specific enough and that as a result the police interpretation of when a search is justified was “very loose”.

“A review of the act is worthwhile to clarify what the procedures are and what people’s rights are and to ensure no one is over-stepping that,” she said.

In August, the Redfern Legal Centre released a report with the University of New South Wales which warned imprecise legal thresholds meant unlawful use of the practice is “potentially widespread”.

Last month, the state’s police watchdog, the Law Enforcement and Conduct Commission, held public hearings into the potentially illegal strip-search of a 16-year old girl at last year’s Splendour in the Grass.

It heard many officers were not aware of their responsibilities under the act, with one officer admitting all 19 searches he conducted at that music festival may have been illegal.

“It’s clear from the LECC inquiry that the police involved didn’t understand or know what their responsibilities under the act were and how it should be administered,” Voltz said.

Read the full article here (The Guardian, 7 November 2019)