The NSW police have copped a heap of flack over at least 30 alleged strip-search incidents that took place at the underage Lost City music festival in Sydney. The Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC) has initiated public hearings into these incidents and the testimonies that has come out of the inquiry are gut-wrenching,
The inquiry saw three boys aged 15, 16, and 17 give statements to the LECC (which were read out by the counsel assisting the commission, Peggy Dwyer, as per The Guardian) regarding their respective strip-search experiences at Lost City and their testimonies are nothing short of harrowing.
Dwyer states that the 15-year-old teen was taken aside by NSW police for a strip-search, which was conducted without a parent or support person. He states he was told to life his shirt and his armpits before being asked to “pull his pants down”. The teen said:
“And I was sort of like, just stood there for a bit like, are you sure? Like, do I just pull down my pants and show you everything or like what? And he’s like, no pull down your pants, hold your dick and lift your balls up and show me your gooch. And I was like ‘OK’.”
Dwyer states the officer then “bent down to have a look, approximately one metre away from him.”
The commission heard from the 16-year-old boy, who was also strip-searched alone by the NSW police, that he was told to “lift up his balls” and to “squat and cough.”
The 17-year-old teen gave a statement that alleged a male officer “inserted his hands inside” his underwear, “and made contact with his testicles” after he was told to “grab his penis and to lift it up.”
Dwyer told the commission that after allegedly touching the 17-year-old, the officer allegedly “moved around behind” him, “placed both hands inside [his] shorts and ran his hands around his buttocks, in a circular motion, apparently in an effort to detect if drugs were concealed there.”
The commission also heard from NSW police officers who were working at the Lost City festival in Sydney and their testimonies don’t paint a promising picture.
According to an officer (via The Sydney Morning Herald) who acted as the drug-dog commander at the festival, the NSW Police handbook on strip-searches that was given out offered “very little guidance.”
Beyond the lack of a proper strip-search protocol, further testimony from another female officer working at Lost City indicated that some NSW police simply didn’t understand strip-search law.
While the female officer has worked at previous festivals, her experience only involved strip-searching adults. When asked about whether she knew there was a distinction under the relevant Act between strip-searches of adults and underage people, she admitted (via Yahoo) that she didn’t.
Dwyer told the LECC that a strip-search was “by necessity a grave intrusion of a citizen’s privacy and dignity” and said “absent any legal justification it would constitute an assault punishable by imprisonment.”
“Little imagination is needed to understand how stressful and potentially embarrassing a strip search may be, even for law-abiding adults. Even more so for young people with little experience of law enforcement in this context and limited understanding of their rights.”