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

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

Gavin Fernando reports for news.com.au

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

Under law, strip searches are only meant to be conducted as a last resort in serious circumstances, but experts say the invasive practice has become far more commonplace in recent years.

The Rethinking Strip Searches by NSW Police report, commissioned by Redfern Legal Centre, revealed the number of strip-searches conducted in NSW has increased almost 20-fold over the past 12 years, from 277 times in the 12 months to 30 November 2006, to 5483 in 2018.

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

The report also found that unlawful strip searches were widespread. Young people — aged 25 and under — made up almost half of all recorded searches.

Dr Vicki Sentas, the lead author of the report, said the law was failing to provide police with clear guidance on how to conduct a strip search respectfully.

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 indicated the law was 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.

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