A toddler, who was stripped by police during his visit to see his dad in jail, is suing the state. Occurring on Father’s Day in 2018, the incident involved the 16-month-old and a police officer who allegedly took him out of the capsule in his aunt’s car, and transported him to a nearby police bus at Kempsey Jail.
Once inside the bus, the family of the toddler claimed that the female officer moved on to remove all clothing and the nappy of the child, and then inspected him while he was naked. This included inspecting his genitalia, as reported in court documents.
As a subject of an internal police investigation, the female police officer who allegedly conducted the search was involved in two complaints against her. One included the complaint that it is illegal to strip search a child under the age of 10.
During the search, NSW Police and Corrective Services were in the middle of a screening operation separate from the prison, targeting various crimes. This included the smuggling of drugs and contraband into the grounds of the prison.
There is no evidence that the family had been trying to use the toddler to commit either of these crimes or any various other offences. As a result, they were not charged.
The mother, on behalf of the toddler, launched legal action against the state. The hearing is to be held within the NSW District Court and will hear out the complaint of false imprisonment and battery. The family are also making additional claims for exemplary damages, noting the officer had “outrageously and disgracefully” strip-searched the 16-month-old, which goes against morality.
Lawyers of the toddler – Todd Scott and Dean Woodbury – told media outlets that the officer breached several laws relating to the powers held by police when arresting individuals. They noted that strip-searching a one-year-old is a “disgraceful violation of something who is completely incapable of asserting or defending their basic human rights.”
Police are yet to lodge a defence to the court and said it was not appropriate to provide any discussion on the topic while the case is being seen by the court.
The toddler’s aunt also took up legal action, claiming she was strip-searched. She said she was forced to squat and then cough while she was naked.
Documents filed to the court noted the boy’s aunties were taking him to the jail at 10am to visit his imprisoned father.
The police had stopped the vehicle alongside the entrance of the Correctional Centre and directed the women to exit the car. The infant then remained in the vehicle, and after 15 minutes, was removed and transported to the nearby bus.
According to the claim, the illegal strip search of the toddler is a breach of the law due to the fact that a minor cannot be searched without the presence of a guardian, parent or ‘acceptable third party’.
The matter will be a call-over hearing at the Port Macquarie District Court in November.