8 May 2020
The Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT) Limited (‘ALS’) has today welcomed the release of a suite of reports by the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC) as part of its ongoing Inquiry into the use of strip search powers by NSW Police Officers, but expressed disappointment that the Reports’ findings do not go far enough.
The Reports expose the excessive use of strip-searches in NSW and outline investigations into five specific matters. This includes the unlawful strip search of a 16-year-old Aboriginal boy in the street of a large regional town and later strip-search in the vehicle dock of a local police station, as well as two strip searches of a handcuffed Aboriginal man in a Sydney police station.
ALS’ Principal Solicitor (Criminal Law Practice) Sarah Crellin said, “The LECC report and deeply disturbing video footage released today highlights what we’ve known for a long time - strip searches are a deeply intrusive, disempowering and degrading process.”
“Whilst the LECC Reports make findings of both inappropriate and serious misconduct by Police, we are deeply disappointed that there have been no recommendations for disciplinary action.”
“Aboriginal people and communities are too often the targets of discrimination and over-policing. And the excessive use of strip-searching is causing significant emotional and psychological harm in Aboriginal communities, particularly for children and young people. There must be accountability for mistreatment.”
In 2018, a total of 15,353 searches were conducted on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, with nothing being found in 88 per cent of these searches. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are disproportionately represented in strip search figures, accounting for 10% of all recorded strip searches in the field and 22% of all recorded strip searches in custody.
“The young clients that we represent often have backgrounds of trauma, which is only compounded by forcible strip-searches by police. This must stop.”
"The reports note that changes have been made to made to Police procedure and that more training programs should be put in place. And yet we continue to see our clients subjected to discriminatory and degrading practice.”
“The NSW Government must act immediately to ensure that appropriate legal safeguards are put in place to protect our kids and our communities” said Ms Crellin.
ALS Media Contact: [email protected] / 0427 346 017
*The LECC Strip Search reports can be accessed at: https://www.lecc.nsw.gov.au/news-and-publications/publications