A 15-year-old boy said he was told to ‘hold his d**k and lift his balls up’ during a police strip search at a Sydney music festival, an inquiry has revealed.
A number of NSW police officers are under investigation by the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission after allegedly conducting invasive searches at the Lost City music festival in February.
A public hearing on Monday revealed three boys aged 15, 16, and 17, were forced to remove their clothing and show officers their genitals before entering the venue.
None of the boys were found in possession of drugs, and only five of 30 searches were performed in front of a guardian, the inquiry heard.
Police watchdog, Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC) are investigating NSW police officers over invasive strip searches at the Lost City music festival in February
Peggy Dwyer, who is representing the LECC, said the 15-year-old was stopped and frisked after a drug dog appeared to detect something.
Officers then told the boy to lift his shirt and arms up, before instructing him to pull his pants down.
‘The officer told him, quote, “to hold your d**k and lift your balls up and show me your gooch”,’ Ms Dwyer said.
The term ‘gooch’ refers to the area between a man’s testicles and anus.
The boy told investigators he felt ‘pretty scared’ when he was picked out for a search and ‘froze’ after hearing the cop’s commands.
‘[I] just stood there for a bit like, are you sure? Like, do I just pull down my pants and show you everything or like what?
‘And he’s like, “no pull down your pants, hold your d**k and lift your balls up and show me your gooch.” And I was like, OK,’ the boy said.
The police officer is alleged to have bent down to examine the area from about a metre’s distance.
The inquiry heard an officer also allegedly stuck his hands down a 17-year-old’s underwear and ‘made contact with his testicles.’
The boy had been told to ‘grab his penis and to lift it up.’
A public hearing on Monday revealed three boys aged 15, 16, and 17, were forced to remove their clothing and show officers their genitals before entering the festival (stock image)
The officer then ‘placed both hands inside [his] shorts and ran his hands around his buttocks, in a circular motion, apparently in an effort to detect if drugs were concealed there,’ Dwyer said.
In a separate case, a 16-year-old was who was found hiding a bum bag – which was not allowed inside – was told to remove his pants, and ‘squat and cough.’
The Sydney hearing, expected to last five days, is considering each of the three cases and the lawfulness and reasonableness of strip-search practices more generally.
The police commander overseeing the event said deaths at recent music festivals were at the ‘forefront’ of officers’ minds in the lead-up to Lost City.
He ‘absolutely’ regarded it as important to have a support person present for strip-searches and agreed it was disappointing an adult was present in just five cases.
Ms Dwyer told the hearing strip-searches were ‘stressful and potentially embarrassing’ and could have a lasting negative effect.
The drug MDMA was located in nine of the 30 searches.
Over the last few months, law enforcement officers have faced criticism for performing what many claim are invasive and potentially illegal body searches.
Last year, a 16-year-old girl claimed she was subjected to a strip search while attending the Splendour in the Grass festival on the NSW north coast.
Strip searches are forbidden on anybody under the age of 10, and all minors are supposed to have parental consent prior, unless extenuating circumstances suggest the search is necessary immediately.
The University of NSW recently carried out a study investigating the increasing use of strip searches by NSW Police.
It found the number of strip searches conducted in 2017/18 was 5,438, a significant jump from the 277 which were conducted between December 2005 and November 2006.
The LECC’s hearing is expected to run for five days.