A police strip search which left a 16-year-old girl “completely humiliated” at a Byron Bay music festival was unlawful, the NSW Police watchdog has found.
- The strip searches occurred at the Splendour in the Grass in 2018 and the Lost City Music Festival in 2019
- The LECC found officers at both festivals didn’t understand the rules around strip searching
- All four searches were ruled unlawful because officers didn’t try to contact parents or guardians, as required by law
The girl was told by police to undress and squat at Splendour in the Grass in 2018, after a sniffer dog sat next to her.
She told an inquiry when she first realised she was about to be stripsearched she “could not stop crying. I was completely humiliated”.
WARNING: This article contains graphic content
The Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC) also handed down its findings in relation to the strip searches of three teenage boys, aged between 15 and 17, at the Lost City Music festival at Homebush on February 23, 2019.
The inquiry heard in one case, a 15-year-old boy was strip-searched after a sniffer dog lingered near him.
It heard an officer directed the boy to: “Hold your dick and lift your balls up and show me your gooch.”
Another boy was stripsearched by an officer who “made contact with his testicles” while not wearing gloves.
In all four cases the LECC found the searches to be unlawful because officers made no attempt to contact a parent, guardian or support person, as required by law for a person aged under 18.
But it stopped short of making any findings of misconduct against any of the officers involved.
The LECC found it had not been necessary for the girl to be completely naked, or for her to be asked to remove her panty liner and squat, or have her vagina inspected.
Officers at the Lost City music festival had inadequate training in strip-searching children.(Instagram: Goodlife Presents)
It found officers at both music festivals did not have sufficient knowledge of the rules for strip searching under the Law Enforcement Powers and Responsibilities Act (LEPRA).
While officers at the Lost City Music Festival were found to be lacking sufficient experience and training in strip searching.
Of the 11 officers at the festival who gave evidence, only one had ever stripsearched a child before the festival.
And of the eight officers involved in the Lost City festival strip searches, none had received any training since graduating from the police academy.
The LECC also found the Splendour in the Grass organisers didn’t provide sufficient space for privacy during strip searches or enough information to parents and caregivers about their right to be present during a strip search of a minor.
Legal experts said the recommendations handed down from the inquiry were “gravely inadequate”.
Samantha Lee from Redfern Legal Centre said the recommendations were not good enough.
“Why on earth are children allowed to be stripsearched in the first place? It needs to change,” Ms Lee said.