Splendour In The Grass 2019 - Byron Bay - Day 1
Splendour In The Grass 2019 - Byron Bay - Day 1

REVEALED: Number of strip searches done by local cops

THE NSW police watchdog has requested clarification from NSW Parliament on whether police are allowed to force people to squat and move their genitals during strip searches.

The NSW Law Enforcement Conduct Commission's report released this week also found the legality of strip searching "remains debatable".

The report outlined the work of the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission in investigating, oversighting and analysing police strip search practices for the last two years.

The document also highlighted the work undertaken by the NSW Police Force to address the Commission's concerns and enhance their policies, practices and the training provided to police officers.

The commission's report indicated that between 2016-17 and 2019-20, Tweed-Byron Police District recorded 783 strip searches, with most of them completed in the field (515) instead of in custody (268).

The document offered different results for Richmond Police District for the same period.

The total recorded strip searches reached 455 cases, with 322 in custody while 133 were in field.

 

Security and police at Splendour in the Grass 2017. Picture: NIGEL HALLETT
Security and police at Splendour in the Grass 2017. Picture: NIGEL HALLETT

 

One of the police operations investigated by the commission was Operation Brugge, in which LECC looked into the police strip search of a 16-year-old girl at Splendour in the Grass in 2018.

In regards to that case, public hearings were held between October and December 2019, with nine witnesses examined.

The commission concluded that Operation Brugge and three others examined were "unlawful".

It was also concluded by LECC that the search of the young girl "was not justified as neither of the relevant officers held a suspicion on reasonable grounds that a strip search was necessary for the purposes of the search and that the seriousness and urgency of the circumstances made the strip search necessary."

The report also stated that the young girl was strip searched after she was indicated by a drug detection dog, even though she denied possessing drugs, "and no officers recorded any symptoms exhibited by her which suggested drug affectedness."

 

A police sniffer dog squad speak to a festival goer during Splendour In the Grass in Northern New South Wales, Saturday, July 20, 2019.
A police sniffer dog squad speak to a festival goer during Splendour In the Grass in Northern New South Wales, Saturday, July 20, 2019.

 

The watchdog was however unable to confirm the practice was illegal.

"The lack of clarity in relation to these issues makes it difficult for police and for oversight bodies to decide with certainty whether it is lawful for an officer to ask a person to do these things, and use force if that request is refused," the paper said.

NSW Police sent a message to its officers, reminding them of the prohibition on stripsearching a child under the age of 10.

NSW Police updated its policies regarding strip searches, and new operational documents for use by officers at music festivals, a spokeswoman said.

"This program of reform has already seen real change: since 2016, the percentage of strip searches conducted in the field resulting in a find has risen from 33% to 46%," she said.

"The findings are now being reviewed by the NSW Police Force executive, who will take a considered approach to further reform in this area."



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