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Australia NSW Police strip searched over 120 underage girls in the past three years, data reveals

01:05  06 november  2019
01:05  06 november  2019 Source:   abc.net.au

With focus on music festival strip-searches, let's not forget this important issue

  With focus on music festival strip-searches, let's not forget this important issue Some people are more policed than others. The figures show Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been disproportionately subjected to invasive, harmful and possibly unlawful searches. And now thanks to the LECC we can assume that this disproportion may be much greater than we think.Samantha Lee is a lawyer and the head of police accountability at the Redfern Legal Centre.

New South Wales Police Minister David Elliott says he "would want" officers to strip - search Under normal circumstances, children in NSW can be strip searched only with a parent, guardian or support person present. Big festivals threaten to desert NSW over Government's new 'nanny state' laws.

New data has revealed that more than 120 underage girls were forced to undergo a strip search since 2016 in New South Wales . While the information could be considered quite damning against the New South Wales Police , the state's Police Minister doesn't see it that way.

The spotlight has been on strip searches in NSW this year. (Supplied)© Provided by Australian Broadcasting Corporation The spotlight has been on strip searches in NSW this year. (Supplied)

More than 120 girls under the age of 18 have been strip searched by NSW Police since 2016, data obtained under freedom of information laws has revealed.

The numbers, obtained by the Redfern Legal Centre (RLC), showed two of the 122 children strip searched were just 12 years old and eight were 13 years old.

In regular circumstances, police can strip search children between the ages of 10 and 18 in NSW only while a parent, guardian or support person present.

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NSW Police strip searches under scrutiny (AAP)Source: AAP. Around 10 per cent of the women and girls strip - searched by NSW police in the past three years were recorded as Indigenous Other data obtained by the centre revealed a 10 year -old Indigenous person was strip - searched

The New South Wales police performed strip - searches on more than 100 girls in the last three years , including two 12- year -olds. The revelations come as the NSW police watchdog revealed last week that it investigated six separate allegations of misuse of strip - search powers by police last

NSW Police came under scrutiny at a recent inquiry into the strip search of a teenaged girl.© ABC News: Bruce Mackenzie NSW Police came under scrutiny at a recent inquiry into the strip search of a teenaged girl.

However, if police believe evidence may be at risk of being destroyed and the circumstances are "urgent", they can search the child while a parent or guardian is not there.

RLC's head of police accountability, Samantha Lee, said the laws should be changed to prohibit the use of strip searches on children unless a court order had been obtained.

"We don't know the circumstances of these particular cases, they are just raw data," she said.

"But certainly they do highlight some major concerns in terms of the law and the fact that the law needs to change to protect all children from strip searches."

The practice came under the microscope last month, when NSW's Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC) held an inquiry into the strip search of a 16-year-old girl at a music festival.

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Inquiry told of invasive searches on teens at Lost City music festival in Sydney, where only five of 30 cases had support person present.

The NSW police minister has defended the strip - searching of children and teenagers after new figures showed more than 100 young girls were strip - searched by police in the past three years . Police Minister David Elliott was responding to figures obtained by the Redfern Legal Centre showing

While giving evidence at the inquiry, the officer who conducted the search conceded it was likely unlawful.

NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman defended the use of strip searches but acknowledged the policy was being reviewed.

"Strip searches are an important investigative tool but obviously we have to get the balance right, they need to be used only where appropriate," he said.

"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."

Ms Lee said that review should include new regulations around the presence of parents or guardians during strip searches of minors.

"If the police believe the circumstances are urgent enough to prevent evidence from being destroyed or concealed, then they can decide not to have the parent or guardian there," she said.

"We want that legislation changed, we want it to be compulsory to have a support person or guardian present for a child."

The FOI figures revealed 3,919 women were strip searched over the three-year period.

"On average 66 per cent [of those searches] found nothing and when something was found in 80 per cent of cases it was for minor drug possession," Ms Lee said.

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