The Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC) is presently conducting an inquiry into the NSW Police Force regarding complaints of unlawful strip searches.
On 8 May 2020, the LECC released a number of reports to parliament detailing investigations into police strip searches. The reports examined instances of unlawful searches in police stations, music festivals and public areas. All of these searches resulted in complaints about the conduct of police involved.
What is a strip search and when can they be done?
A strip search is a power which police officers can exercise going beyond an examination of a person by touching their outer clothing (‘a person search’). A ‘person search’ ordinarily involves police examining the edges of the outer clothing by running their fingertips around the inside of the waistband, collar or sleeves of that clothing, but no more.
According to the NSW Police Person Search Manual, anything that goes beyond what is permitted by a ‘person search’ is a strip search. Strip searches may or may not involve the removal of clothing.
A strip search involving the removal of clothing, must never involve the removal of more clothing than is reasonably necessary for the search. If a strip search is to require the removal of all clothing, it should be done in stages.
Police must also warn the person that they are required by law to comply with a requirement to remove articles of clothing.
If a person is required to remove anything more than their coat or jacket (or similar item of outer clothing) or their gloves, shoes, socks or hat, it is a strip search.
To conduct these searches, a police officer must have ‘reasonable suspicion’. In some situations, it may be evident that no reasonable suspicion could exist and therefore the search was conducted unlawfully.
Being strip searched can be an extremely invasive and traumatic experience.What is a strip search
What to do?
Strip searches are an invasive practice involving physical and personal contact that could otherwise amount to an assault, battery or false imprisonment. It is important to be aware of your legal rights.