The Redfern Legal Centre and law firm Slater and Gordon are investigating a potential class action against NSW Police over alleged unlawful strip searches, Guardian Australia reports.
The class action would seek compensation for people who’ve been strip searched without without following proper protocol. This has disproportionately affected young people and Aboriginal people.
“Strip searches in NSW have increased over 20-fold in just over a decade,” Slater and Gordon said in a statement on its website.
“They are traumatic, invasive and harmful procedures that should only be used by police as a last resort.
“People who have been unlawfully searched have a right to compensation for what has happened to them.”
The law firms are asking people to come forward, even if they’re not sure whether their strip search was unlawful or not.
A handful of people have already signed up for the class action, including one 27-year-old man identified as Ben.
“I was asked to take off my jacket and shirt and was patted down,” he said.
“The officer also ran his thumb around the inside waistband of my underpants – his thumb was between my underpants and my skin.
“I just did what I was told at the time but thinking about it now makes me feel really uncomfortable.”
Being noticed by a drug dog is not a good enough reason to conduct a strip search, according to NSW Police’s own guidelines, while a parent or guardian must also be present if the person is under 18.
However, many young and Aboriginal people have had the opposite experience.
Earlier this month, footage was released of a 16-year-old Aboriginal boy being held down and stripped in the garage of a police station.
When the boy told police they weren’t allowed to look down his pants without a parent present, one officer replied: “Well, you actually don’t know the rules, we can search you.”
The police watchdog later found this incident to be unlawful.
Strip searching is also commonplace at music festivals. In February, 11 children as young as 14 were strip searched at the Lost City under-18s music festival, which critics described as “humiliating and traumatising”.
The law firms are now looking for “as many people as possible” who’ve been strip searched in NSW during the last six years.
They’re invited to get in touch on the Slater and Gordon website.