RLC in the Media: Top police officer loses bid to keep strip-search report from inquest record

The NSW Police Commissioner has lost a bid to stop an academic report calling for law reform on strip searches from being added to the record of an inquest into music festival deaths.

Angus Thompson reports for The Sydney Morning Herald

The report released last month by University of NSW law faculty lecturers Michael Grewcock and Vicki Sentas says legal thresholds should be tightened as the state’s laws “are not strong enough to protect the public from unnecessary strip searches”.

The Redfern Legal Centre also argues that the definition of a strip search should be clarified and the “deeply humiliating” practice of requiring a person to squat and cough should be explicitly banned.

Barrister Adam Casselden, SC, appearing for Police Commissioner Mick Fuller, objected to the report being tendered to the inquest into the drug-related deaths of six young people at music festivals in NSW.

Mr Casselden told the NSW Coroners Court on Wednesday that the contents of the report went beyond the scope of the inquest, and that there was “simply no evidence” that any of the festivalgoers who died “panic ingested” party drugs because of a fear of being strip searched.

But counsel assisting the coroner, Peggy Dwyer, said evidence heard in relation to the death of Central Coast teenager Alex Ross-King, 19, made it “clear” she took multiple MDMA capsules before entering Parramatta festival FOMO in January 2019 out of fear of being caught by police.

Dr Dwyer said issues in relation to strip searching seemed to be “inextricably linked” to the frequent use of sniffer dogs at NSW festivals, leading to the “harmful consumption of illicit substances” among attendees.

Deputy State Coroner Harriet Grahame allowed the UNSW report to be tendered, agreeing it was within the scope of the inquest.

Read the full article here (Sydney Morning Herald, 12 September 2019)