Content warning: this article discusses graphic content.
New South Wales Police have confirmed that 11 children were strip searched without a parent or guardian present at under 18s music festival Good Life, Lost City at Sydney Olympic Park over the weekend.
As ABC reports, of 44 teenagers searched at the festival, 11 were strip searched without a guardian present.
While police have argued the strip searches carried out over the weekend were done in accordance with the law, Redfern Legal Centre’s Samantha Lee has pointed out that the young people subject to strip searches may not have been properly informed of their rights.
“If they’re not going to have a parent or guardian present, then they must have a very good reason as to why that person isn’t going to be available,” Lee commented to ABC.
“In this circumstance, the festival did not allow a parent or guardian in to accompany the child, so it is unclear what information was provided to the child that ensured that fully understood the testing they were being subjected to.”
Police say several searches conducted during the festival on Saturday resulted in drug detections, with a 14-year-old girl and a 17-year-old boy allegedly caught with over 100 ecstasy pills. Both were charged with supplying an indictable quantity of a prohibited drug. According to police, 14 teenagers were found with prohibited drugs at the festival.
At the same festival last year, police strip searched 25 young people without a guardian present, instructing one 15-year old boy to expose his genitals as part of a strip search procedure. Police engagement at the festival came under attack in an inquiry by the NSW Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC) into the process.
The hearing was conducted last year after complaints from the public, and found police conducting strip searches on children was potentially unlawful. An officer who conducted 19 searches at Splendour in the Grass in 2018 admitted during the hearing that the searches may not have been lawful.
In November, data obtained under freedom of information laws revealed that over 120 underage girls – some as young as 12 years old – had been strip searched by NSW Police since 2016.
Greens MP David Shoebridge struck out against police today, saying, “There is no excuse for children to be exposed to this humiliating, traumatising and potentially illegal practice.”
“Two thirds of the time, strip searches turn up nothing and when they do find something, it’s more than likely drugs for personal use. What police will do is teach an entire generation of young people to rightly distrust the police force.”