RLC in the Media: NSW Police watchdog finds strip searches of four teenagers at music festivals were ‘unlawful’

A police strip search which left a 16-year-old girl “completely humiliated” at a Byron Bay music festival was unlawful, the NSW Police watchdog has found.

Bellinda Kontominas reports for ABC News

A 16-year-old girl was told by police to undress and squat at Splendour in the Grass in 2018, after a sniffer dog sat next to her.

She told an inquiry when she first realised she was about to be strip searched she “could not stop crying. I was completely humiliated”.

The Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC) also handed down its findings in relation to the strip searches of three teenage boys, aged between 15 and 17, at the Lost City Music festival at Homebush on February 23, 2019.

The inquiry heard in one case, a 15-year-old was strip searched after a sniffer dog lingered near him and directed by an officer to “Hold your dick and lift your balls up and show me your gooch.”

In all four cases the LECC found the searches to be unlawful because officers made no attempt to contact a parent, guardian or support person, as required by law for a person aged under 18.

But it stopped short of making any findings of misconduct against any of the officers involved.

It found officers at both music festivals did not have sufficient knowledge of the rules for strip searching under the Law Enforcement Powers and Responsibilities Act (LEPRA).

The LECC’s final report on strip searching is due later this year.

Legal experts said the recommendations handed down from the inquiry were “gravely inadequate”.

Samantha Lee from Redfern Legal Centre said the recommendations were not good enough.

“Why on earth are children allowed to be strip searched in the first place? It needs to change,” Ms Lee said.

In a statement, NSW Police said it understood the importance of the strip-search review and would take a considered approach when the findings were delivered.

Read the full article here (ABC News, 10 May 2020)