RLC in the Media: Number of strip searches in NSW doubles in a year, triggering Law Commission inquiry

The head of RLC's Police Powers practice, Sam Lee, discusses concerns around the sharp increase in police strip searches in NSW, describing a degrading incident involving a young woman strip-searched at a music festival. 

Hagar Cohen reports for The World Today

The Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC) is holding an inquiry into allegations that some members of New South Wales police have abused their strip-search powers, amidst evidence showing that the number of searches has risen dramatically.

Strip searches doubled from 560 in 2016 to 1,100 in 2017. In the first five months of 2018, 735 strip searches were recorded. The new inquiry was sparked by a growing number of complaints, and claims Aboriginal children as young as 11 have been illegally strip searched.

Sam Lee, RLC's police powers solicitor, said that RLC's casework showed that police were going automatically to a strip search rather than just an ordinary search.

"What's happening on the ground is wrong, it's inappropriate, it's having a harmful impact particularly on young people," Ms Lee told The World Today.

Ms Lee said the stories she hears from her young clients are disturbing. She recounted an incident involving a young woman who was "absolutely traumatised" after being subjected to a humiliating stip search where nothing was found.

"This young woman would never approach a police officer ever again, even if she's in trouble,"  Ms  Lee said. "And that's where the harm lies."

Read the full article here (Hagar Cohen, The World Today, 12 November 2018)