RLC in the Media: People strip searched at Splendour in the Grass could be entitled to thousands in compensation in class action

Young people strip searched unlawfully at Splendour in the Grass are urged to join a landmark class action against NSW Police

Avani Dias reports for Triple J Hack

Lawyers launching the class action investigation believe there were hundreds of people who were unlawfully strip searched at the festival from 2016 onwards.

The class action follows a 2020 investigation by Slater and Gordon and Redfern Legal Centre into NSW Police strip searches over the last six years, but the action is now focusing solely on Splendour in the Grass.

Despite several inquiries over 15 years and recommendations from the police watchdog and the state's Coroner to clarify the laws around strip searches, the legislation in NSW hasn't changed.

In the last 15 years, strip searches in NSW have increased from 100 to 5,000 a year.

"We know strip searches are harmful and degrading experiences and we know that in the vast majority of cases, they find absolutely nothing. So we believe that there's no justification for this enormous increase in strip searches in New South Wales," RLC principal solicitor Alexis Goodstone told Triple J Hack.

Lawyers for the class action said children under the age of 18 were strip searched at Splendour and some incidents at the festival involved officers asking people to strip naked and "squat and cough".

In 2019, the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission heard a 16-year-old girl was asked to remove her panty liner while being strip searched at Splendour in the Grass. And at a 2019 music festival, a teenage boy said he was asked by police to "lift your balls up and show me your gooch" while being strip searched.

"Strip searches are highly invasive procedures and the law prescribes a very strict test for when they are lawful. The circumstances have to be very serious and urgent in order for a strip search to be justified," Goodstone said.

"We know from the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission, that strip searches in the context of music festivals, for reasonable suspicion of drug possession alone, are not likely to be lawful and yet we know that at Splendour that was the basis for most of the searches that were going on. "So the test has a very high threshold...and we believe that in a large number of cases, police are not meeting the threshold test."

Read the full article (16 November 2021, Triple J Hack)