Why Have Strip Searches In NSW Doubled In Just One Year?

Investigation launched off the back of disturbing stats

An inquiry is underway in New South Wales following an explosion in the number of strip searches undertaken by police in the state.

Strip searches in NSW doubled from a total of 560 in 2016 to 1,100 in 2017.

And the trend has continued upwards, with 735 strip searches recorded in the first five months of 2018.

The Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC) is investigating police officers’ use of powers to conduct strip searches following a number of specific complaints and anecdotal information from a variety of community organisations.

Claims have been made that Aboriginal children as young as 11 have been illegally strip searched.

Sam Lee, Solicitor with the Redfern Legal Centre (RLC), believes a dramatic change in policing practices is driving a surge in strip searches.

"We think that in New South Wales, there's a move towards more aggressive policing, particularly in music festivals and towards young people," Ms Lee told the ABC.

The law around the use of the technique is vague and open to wide interpretation. The RLC believe that the legislation needs to be reworked to provide proper safeguards for members of the public.

The Centre today launched the Safe and Sound campaign aimed at educating people about their rights – which include the preservation of privacy and dignity. Strip searches are also not allowed to occur in the presence or view of someone of the opposite sex.

Music festivals have seen a high-profile spike in the number of strip searches, but the RLC says they have also been occurring in rural areas, in the suburbs, in the city, beside the road, on the street and in the back of a paddy wagon.

According to Greens MP David Shoebridge, the change in the number of strip searches points to a decision being made by within the police organisation to take a more aggressive approach.

"This has to come up from higher up in the police hierarchy, and that's a mystery that needs to be explained," Mr Shoebridge said.

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller issued a statement to the ABC last month saying that there had been no change in policy.

Mr Shoebridge added that the strip searches were usually not resulting in arrests.

"What we're seeing is that up to two-thirds of the time, police are producing nothing — hundreds of people being humiliated for no reason.”

Several private hearings have been conducted by the LECC already, and it is expected in the coming weeks more will be held.