Festival-goers who were unlawfully searched by NSW Police at Splendour in the Grass could each be entitled to substantial compensation, with people affected by serious breaches potentially entitled to tens of thousands of dollars each through a class action being investigated by the teams at Redfern Legal Centre and Slater and Gordon.
People who attended the cult music festival from 2016 to 2019 are being urged to reach out as soon as they can, if they were searched by NSW Police. These searches include being sniffed out by a drug dog, being told that clothing needed to be lifted or removed during the search, or having police peer into your trousers or down your top.
Ruby* was searched by NSW Police at Splendour in 2017. She said the experience was traumatising and left her feeling violated. Incredibly, she was searched twice in the same day.
“During the first search, a female officer forced me to take all my clothes off. At one point, a male police officer opened the tent and stared at my naked body. I turned away to hide my body and alerted the female officer that he was watching. She claimed no one was watching and continued searching me, when I could clearly see that he was still staring at me.”
Redfern Legal Centre and Slater and Gordon completely understand that this can be a difficult subject for many and will absolutely support those who reach out to them.
“A class action is a legal means for a group of people to come together to call out an unlawful and damaging practice, and importantly, it is easy for people to participate because it is anonymous and risk-free,” Redfern Legal Centre’s Principal Solicitor, Alexis Goodstone said.
“This groundbreaking class action against NSW Police will seek redress for the many people subjected to an invasive and traumatic search.”
Hundreds of people are believed to have been unlawfully searched at Splendour, clearly suggesting a deep error in training for police officers on how to lawfully conduct searches.
“An unlawful search is classified by law as an assault and gives rise to compensation. Therefore, hundreds of people searched at Splendour may be entitled to compensation as a result of this potential case,” Dr Ebony Birchall, Senior Associate at Slater and Gordon, said.
If you were searched at Splendour in 2016 to 2019 and want more information about how this case might affect you, then you can register with the firms right HERE.
While this case focuses on incidents at Splendour, the lawyers say they hope it will pave the way for future cases relating to other music festivals. There is no suggestion that Splendour had anything to do with the unlawful searches by police.
“Splendour wishes to make clear that we had no insight into NSW Police search processes at our festivals. We do not support drug dog operations as a method to manage a broader societal challenge that extends well beyond the context of a music festival. We support our patrons who wish to come forward to call out and help stop unlawful conduct,” said Splendour in the Grass co-founder Jessica Ducrou.
Research commissioned by Redfern Legal Centre found that there had been an almost 20-fold increase in the number of strip searches conducted by the NSW Police in just over a decade. A majority of these searches found nothing, by the way. And on paper, the data revealed that searches were disproportionately targeted at young people and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
While Redfern Legal Centre and Slater and Gordon are currently focusing on Splendour, ultimately they want to protect the rights of patrons at all festivals and stop unlawful searches from taking place.
So once more, if you’re comfortable with sharing your experience and registering for the class action, then you can do so right HERE.
*Ruby is not her real name
Help is available.
If you require immediate assistance, please call 000.
If you’d like to speak to someone about sexual violence, please call the 1800 Respect hotline on 1800 737 732 or chat online.
Under 25? You can reach Kids Helpline at 1800 55 1800 or chat online.Image: Getty Images / Matt Jelonek