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Police Watchdog Finds Multiple Underage Strip Searches Carried Out At NSW Festivals “Unlawful”

WARNING: This article contains graphic content

A police inquest carried out by the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC) has found that four strip searches, conducted by NSW police on people under the age of 18, at Splendour in the Grass and Lost City music festivals in 2018 and 2019 respectively, were “unlawful”.

As the ABC reports, the inquest was in partial relation to an incident at Splendour in the Grass in 2018, in which a 16-year-old girl was instructed by police to undress and squat after a sniffer dog sat next to her. She told an inquiry that she was “completely humiliated” by the experience.

The inquest also delivered its findings regarding strip searches carried out on three teenage boys aged between 15-17 at the Lost City Music Festival in Homebush last year. One boy was directed by a police officer to “Hold your dick and lift your balls up and show me your gooch,” while another was strip searched by an officer who “made contact with his testicles” while not wearing gloves.

In all four cases, the searches were found to be unlawful due to the fact that officers made no attempt to contact a parent, guardian or support person beforehand. This is a legal requirement for people under 18 years of age. Additionally, the inquest found it was not necessary for the girl involved in the Splendour in the Grass incident to have been completely naked, to be asked to remove her panty liner and squat, or have her vagina inspected.

The LECC found officers in all cases were inadequately trained to strip search children, with inadequate knowledge of the rules. However, it did not make any findings of misconduct against any of the officers involved.

Police came under attack during the inquiry by the LECC late last year, which heard that at least 25 children had been strip searched, potentially unlawfully, by police at Lost City in 2019. The inquiry also heard a police officer who carried out 19 strip searches at Splendour in the Grass in 2018 admit that the searches may have been unlawful.

In February of this year, nearly a dozen teenagers were strip searched without a parent or guardian present at Lost City Music Festival’s 2020 edition.

Last 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.

The LECC’s final report on strip searching is expected later this year.

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