The NSW Police are set to be questioned by the watchdog, over the alleged strip-searching of a 16-year-old female. Occurring at popular festival Splendour in the Grass, the instance is now the cause of – both legally and publically.
The LECC (The Law Enforcement Conduct Commission) says it will look into the 2018 incident, which arose at the Byron Bay event. The body also confirmed it will carefully assess the practice of strip-searching closely. The inquiry is set to roll out over a three-day hearing, which will be held publicly in October 2019.
A spokesperson from the NSW Police said that he was not aware at this moment in time if the Police Commissioner would provide any notable evidence before the case is heard.
Currently, police are only allowed to carry out strip-searches on the field if the nature of the situation requires it. This should be assessed by the urgency and severity of the case at hand. If minors are involved, a guardian or parent must be present. This is only if the search is proposed as being mandatory to protect evidence from destruction or the person. Children of ages 10 and under are not allowed to be strip-searched at all.
Data owned by the NSW Police have been by the Redfern Legal Centre, of which details noted over 300 children were victims of strip-searches on the field over a period of two years (2016-17, and again over 2017-18). The youngest of the pool assessed was 10 years of age.
Earlier this year, the Herald reported that NSW Police had admitted to the existence of a document that circulated internally to officers, noting breaching regulations around strip-searching.
In addition, a previous statement to the Herald also noted – on behalf of a NSW Police spokesperson – that the legislation surrounding the matter carried certain safeguards to protect the privacy and integrity of members of the public.
This case comes after an investigation of police using their powers inappropriately to conduct these searches, which cause a number of complaints to the LECC.
The commission noted that a number of inquiries drove various complaints to be placed, including several in relation to strip-searching minors of Aboriginal descent. During this time, the commission said that the allegations – all of which involved children – were of a “sensitive” nature and that public hearings may be carried out in order to adhere to the public’s interest.
This particular announcement arose after evidence was closed two days prior, to the coronial inquest of several drug-related fatalities at a music festival – also at music festivals in NSW. These deaths occurred between December 2017 and January 2019.
A 28-year-old woman – who’s identity was preserved by an order from the court – fought back tears during the hearing, as she noted evidence that a police officer (female) threated to strip-search members of the public. She noted that the female police officer said she would strip-search “nice and slow”.
The woman placing her statement said she left the festival feeling humiliated, even though nothing illegal was found in her possession.
Greens MP, David Shoebridge, interrogated Mr Fuller about the evidence the woman presented at a hearing last month. This then prompted the commissioner to respond saying it was “an absolute disgrace” that he would be questioned over the words of someone who’s identity was being protected.
Mr Fuller’s lawyers chose to “correct the record”, with his legal team telling the court that they had the name of the woman and her clean criminal record.