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Australia Strip-search officer said he feared evidence would be 'destroyed'

21:31  03 december  2019
21:31  03 december  2019 Source:   smh.com.au

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Video provided by Sky News Australia

A police officer who strip searched a teenage boy at an under-18s music festival said he didn't call a parent or guardian because he feared evidence would be destroyed, in what the law enforcement watchdog described as a "fabrication".

A public inquiry into the allegedly unlawful strip searching of three boys, aged between 15 and 17, at the Lost City event at Sydney Olympic Park in February heard one of the teenagers claim a police officer moved his testicles and ran his hands over his buttocks after being associated with a suspected drug deal.

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A detective sergeant, whose identity has been suppressed by the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission LECC, told the inquiry he strip searched up to four of eight boys stopped by security after an undercover guard bought a pink capsule from one of them, but denied examining any of the teenagers in the way alleged.

When asked by LECC chief commissioner Michael Adams, QC, what steps he took to have a parent, guardian or other appropriate person present for the search, as is required under law, the officer replied, "none, sir."

"Time was of the essence, the whole scenario was a matter of urgency.  I didn’t want a young person to swallow drugs in front of me in an effort to conceal them," the sergeant said.

a group of people sitting around a dog: A police sniffer dog checks revellers at a music festival. © Paul Harris A police sniffer dog checks revellers at a music festival. A parent or guardian doesn't have to be present if delaying the search is likely to result in evidence being concealed or destroyed, or an immediate search is necessary to protect the safety of a person.

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But when Mr Adams asked how the teenager was going to conceal or destroy drugs when the officer was standing in front of him, the sergeant replied, "it would be very difficult for him to do that."

He also admitted to not recording the reason for not having a parent or guardian present, saying it was an omission for which he was now "kicking himself".

Mr Adams put to the sergeant that he "simply did not bother with the [legal] requirements".

"What you have told me is a fabrication, and at the time you had no such thought that you might need to provide or obtain a guardian, parent or independent person for the purposes of this strip search," he said, which the officer disputed.

"The effect of what you've done is in fact to stymie or prevent an adequate investigation of the circumstances in which these searches occurred, do you agree?" Mr Adams asked.

"That wasn’t my intention," the sergeant replied.

The commission also heard a detective chief inspector working at the event said it wasn't a "deal-breaker" if two emergency volunteers recruited as independent support people for patrons didn't have working-with-children checks.

Another officer who worked as the drug-dog commander at the festival said when he liaised with the State Emergency Service members on the day of the festival, he asked if they would perform the role of an independent person during a strip search.

Mr Adams put to him that the volunteers had not expected that to be part of their function.

"Not that I'm aware," he replied.

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