Data obtained under freedom of information laws has revealed the shocking reality that over 120 underage girls – some as young as 12 years old – have been strip searched by NSW Police since 2016.
In an exclusive report by The Guardian, it has been revealed that the Redfern Legal Centre obtained the data under FOI laws and relayed that there were almost 4,000 strip searches done on women in the last three years. Half of those were women were under the age of 25, and the oldest woman it was done on was 72 years old.
This data has been revealed following the news that a 16 year old was allegedly unlawfully strip searched at Splendour In The Grass last year, and following an admission by a NSW Police Officer that the 19 strip searches he conducted at the same festival may have been unlawful.
The aforementioned 16 year old is one of 122 underage girls that were strip searched in the past three years, with two being 12 years old and eight being 13 years old.
Head of the RLC’s Police Accountability sector Samantha Lee said that these underage women would’ve been frightened and most wouldn’t know about their legal rights in that situation.
“Girls as young as 12 and 13, some just finishing primary school, are being taken by police to a strange place and ordered by someone with a huge amount of power to take off their clothes,” she said.
“There is no doubt these young women would have been scared, some terrified and most having no idea of their legal rights.”
Unfortunately, Lee also told the ABC that this is all raw data, so it is unknown where exactly these searches were conducted, be it at festivals or otherwise.
“We don’t know the circumstances of these particular cases, they are just raw data,” she said.
“But certainly they do highlight some major concerns in terms of the law and the fact that the law needs to change to protect all children from strip searches.”
The NSW Police Minister, David Elliot, defended these actions by police officers, saying that he would want his children searched if they were suspected of wrong doing.
“I’ve got young children and if I thought the police felt they were at risk of doing something wrong I’d want them strip-searched,” he said, via ABC.
The data also reportedly revealed that 66% of the searches conducted on those 3,919 women in the past three years found nothing, and if something was found, 80% was just minor drug possession.