RLC in the Media: NSW Police Partially Strip Search 13-Year-Old Boy in Public

A NSW police officer partially strip searches a 13 year-old boy on the side of the road in broad daylight.

Paul Gregoire reports for Sydney Criminal Lawyers

Sniff Off posted an image on its Facebook page last Tuesday in which a NSW police officer appears to be lifting up the child’s shirt and exposing his torso to any passersby in the close vicinity in Blacktown.

Sniff Off, which campaigns against the warrantless use of drug detection dogs in public places, stated in the post that the image was taken from video footage of the incident it had received but could not publish in full as it would reveal the boy’s identity.

This is just the latest development in the ongoing NSW strip search saga, which involves a police procedure that’s supposed to be of last resort, not only having become routine, but entailing so little oversight or guidance that its commonplace to overstep the bounds of what’s lawful.

“A child of 13 years of age, being partially stripped in public by police. On the face of it, it’s a gross infringement of not just his dignity, but this child’s legal rights as well,” said NSW Greens MLC David Shoebridge.

“Anything that requires a person to remove of lift up outer clothing into the inner layer or bare body should be viewed as a strip search”, said Samantha Lee, head of Redfern Legal Centre’s police and government accountability practice.

In these circumstances, according to Ms Lee, some basic safeguards also apply, including it being done in a private area out of the view of onlookers.

Unique provisions also apply to youth between 10 and 18 years of age. Sub-section 33(3) stipulates a parent, guardian or capable representative must be present, although subsection 33(3A) states that this provision doesn’t apply if a delay in search threatens safety or evidence.

The recent Blacktown incident shows that despite the public backlash against the rising use of this invasive practice, officers continue to be obviously unaware of whether they’re breaking strip search laws, or they’re simply disregarding them.

Read the full article here (Sydney Criminal Lawyers, 2 August 2019)

Also reported in The Big Smoke