Teenagers are illegally strip searched at underage music festival as a female police officer admits to not knowing the law
- Police officer admitted did not know strip search laws when working at a festival
- The female officer spoke to the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission
- She had questioned underage festival goers who were then strip searched
A police officer working at a Sydney underage music festival has admitted she didn’t know minors being strip-searched were legally required to have a support person with them.
The female officer was questioned on Tuesday about a search at February’s Lost City festival after which a 16-year-old boy claimed a male officer put his hands inside his underwear while looking for drugs.
The female officer was not present, but was one of the officers who spoke to him and six other young people stopped at the event. She also filled out paperwork afterwards.
A police officer working at a Sydney underage music festival has admitted she didn’t know minors being strip-searched were legally required to have a support person with them
The woman told the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission she had only recently realised the distinction under the relevant Act between strip-searches of adults and young people.
‘I understand you to be saying that when you read (the Act) recently and you saw that there were particular provisions relating to young people, did you think to yourself ‘I didn’t know that before’?’ chief commissioner Michael Adams QC asked.
‘Yes,’ replied the officer who was giving evidence to the inquiry via video link.
She had worked at previous festivals but was only involved in strip-searching adults.
The boy – who’s told the commission in a statement that a male officer made contact with his genitals and buttocks during the search – was among the group that was stopped after a security worker suspected a drug deal had taken place.
No support person was present during the strip-search and the teen was thrown out of the festival at Sydney Olympic Park despite no drugs being found.
The LECC has heard 31 teenagers were strip-searched at the February 23 event which had some 10,000 young people present.
Police paperwork shows only six were recorded as having had a guardian or support person present.
The commission is considering the cases of the teenage boy and two others who were strip-searched at the underage festival and the lawfulness and reasonableness of strip-search practices more generally.
Dr Peggy Dwyer, counsel assisting the commission, has told the hearing a theme of the inquiry is likely to be the ‘inadequacy of paperwork’ filled out after some of the searches.
A drug dog commander who worked at the event also gave evidence on Tuesday.
The woman told the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission she had only recently realised the distinction under the relevant Act between strip-searches of adults and young people
He said a possible lack of knowledge of the legal requirements was noted in a briefing held after the festival.
He was asked if the regional commander had expressed concern that such a low number of forms recorded a support person as being present.
‘He may have been concerned that the recording wasn’t done correctly,’ the commander said.
Meanwhile, NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman has said although strip-searches are ‘an important part of police activity’ the force needs to get the balance right.
‘To strip-search someone is traumatising for the subject of that strip-search, particularly if they’re children,’ he told reporters.
‘We want to make sure that police and others clearly understand the law and we will receive with interest the recommendations of the LECC inquiry.’