Girls As Young As 12 Strip Searched By Police, Police Minister Doesn't See A Problem
More than 120 young girls have been strip-searched by NSW Police in recent years, but the state's police minister says he'd be happy for his kids to be among them.
The Redfern Legal Centre shared data on Wednesday which revealed that, since w016, the NSW Police Force had conducted 122 strip searches on girls under the age of 18. The data, obtained under Freedom Of Information laws and first reported by The Guardian, showed girls as young as 12 had been forced to take their clothes off in front of police for the purposes of a body search.
NSW police minister David Elliott downplayed revelations, saying he'd "want" his own children to be strip-searched if they were implicated in wrongdoing.
"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," Elliott told a press conference in Sydney.
He claimed he was aware of "10-year-olds who are involved in terrorism activity."
Elliott added that, in his opinion, other parents would "be pretty happy that [their children] got found out" if they were involved with buying or selling drugs.
State legislation mandates that police can only strip search children between the age of 10 and 18 if they have a parent, guardian or other person present, unless there is an urgent need to preserve evidence or protect someone's safety.
This condition formed the centre of a Law Enforcement Conduct Commission enquiry in Sydney last month, where police monitoring the Splendour In The Grass music festival in 2018 strip-searched a 16-year-old girl without anyone else present. No drugs were found during that search.
Elliott seemed to admit some police strip searches have previously been carried out in contravention of regulations but said he was mostly comfortable with how the procedures were carried out.
"Of course they haven't always been used according to the standard operating procedures and anybody who feels that has been done erroneously has got some reply to that," the minister said.
The state's Attorney-General Mark Speakman also backed the continued use of strip-searching but said he looked forward to the report to be produced by the LECC.
"Strip searches are an important investigative tool but obviously we have to get the balance right, they need to be used only where appropriate," Speakman said on Wednesday.
"They can be invasive, they can be stressful, that's why we have the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission doing a general review of strip searches and operations in NSW and I look forward to its report."