RLC in the Media: NSW police officers are increasingly conducting ‘unlawful’ strip searches, experts find

New South Wales police officers are increasingly conducting illegal strip searches, a new report has found. 

Gavin Fernando reports for News.com.au

New South Wales police officers are increasingly conducting illegal strip searches, a new report has found, and have refused to shed light on specific details about them.

The Rethinking Strip Searches by NSW Police report, commissioned by Redfern Legal Centre (RLC), revealed the number of strip-searches conducted by NSW police has increased almost 20-fold over the past 12 years.

It also found that police suspicion that a person possesses prohibited drugs accounts for 91 per cent of all reasons recorded for conducting a strip search, yet only 30 per cent of such searches resulted in a criminal charge.

“A strip search is the most invasive form of personal search available to police without a court order,” said Dr Vicki Sentas, the lead author of the report.

The report says the law needs to be clearer about what, when and how police should conduct a strip search.

RLC solicitor Samantha Lee said the rise in strip searches indicates the law is not being applied as it was intended – as a last resort.

“Strip searches … should be only used in exceptional circumstances when no other alternative is available,” Ms Lee said in a statement.

Report co-author Dr Michael Grewcock said the research suggested that police were using strip-searches routinely “with little regard for the law and their own internal guidelines.”

“The strip search means being stripped by total strangers, often forced to contort into unusual positions – to bend over to squat and cough – and so on, in circumstances and conditions which are almost inevitably going to be humiliating and intimidating,” said Dr Grewcock.

“Police officers do not enjoy carrying out strip searches, but it is a power that has been entrusted to us and searches reveal drugs and weapons,” a spokesperson for NSW Police said.

Read the full article here (News.com.au, 28 August 2019)