Unlawful Strip Search Of An Underage Attendee At All-Ages Music Festival
Mikey* was an underage youth. However, he attended an all-ages music festival. While waiting for entry into the event, security breath tested him for alcohol, which produced a negative result. After entering the festival, a female police officer approached him with a drug detection dog. The dog touched the left side of Mikey’s body. Two officers then immediately grabbed him, and physically escorted him away from the Festival entrance into a fenced off area.
Police interrogated Mikey about why the dog approached him. Police then directed Mikey to remove his hat and shake out his hair, empty his pockets, and give police the PIN for his telephone. The officers subsequently unlocked and searched Mikey’s phone.
The police officer then informed Mikey they would strip search him. In a private area, they directed him to lift his t-shirt and remove his shoes and socks. Another officer asked him to pull his pants down and lift his genitalia for police to examine. Before he could fully redress, police continued to question Mikey about possessing drugs. Throughout the search, Mikey politely complied. Police found nothing during Mikey’s search and detainment.
Successful complaint to the LECC about illegal Strip Searches
Several months after the festival, Mikey’s mother made a complaint to the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC). LECC investigators interviewed Mikey and investigated the incident and released a report later that year. The report found that 25 of the 30 strip searches conducted on minors at the Festival were in the absence of a parent or guardian. The report also found that:
- The police officers at the Festival did not have sufficient knowledge of key requirements contained in the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002 (NSW) (‘LEPRA’);
- Police officers at the Festival lacked sufficient experience and/or training;
- Senior officers did not provide sufficient guidance as to how searches should be conducted; and
- Officers did not adequately record information regarding strip searches at the Festival.
Compensation for assault and battery
Mikey approached O’Brien Solicitors to pursue compensation for his treatment at the Festival. The officers did not have reasonable grounds to stop or search Mikey as he entered the festival. O’Brien Solicitors argued numerous breaches of LEPRA, giving rise to claims for assault, battery, and trespass to goods. Some of these breaches included:
- Officers assaulted Mikey when they grabbed his arms and directed him to submit to a strip search;
- The officers did not have reasonable grounds to suspect that any requirements set out in s 21(1)(a)-(d) of LEPRA existed to justify the search;
- The officers did not have reasonable grounds to suspect that the strip search was necessary for the purposes of the search. Or that the seriousness and urgency of the circumstances made the search necessary, contravening s 31(b) of LEPRA;
- By examining Mikey’s genitalia, the officers did not conduct the least invasive kind of search practicable, contravening s 32(1) and 32(5) of LEPRA;
- The Officers did not inform Mikey why it was necessary to remove his clothing during the search, contravening s 32(2)(b) of LEPRA.
Further, because Mikey was under 18, the officers needed to conduct the search in the presence of Mikey’s parent or guardian, or an acceptable person who is not a police officer and can represent Mikey’s interests under s 33(3)(a) and 33(3)(b) of LEPRA.
Illegal Strip Searches mean aggravated and exemplary damages
O’Brien Solicitors also pursued aggravated and exemplary damages due to Mikey’s age. Mikey was forced to strip naked and expose his genitalia to an adult stranger, without a parent, guardian or other acceptable person present. The experience was humiliating and distressing.
O’Brien Solicitors successfully obtained compensation for Mikey’s experience, as well as legal costs for pursuing the matter.
*We change names to protect the identity of our clients.
If you believe you have been unlawfully strip searched, you may be able to sue the police, contact O’Brien Criminal and Civil Solicitors on (02) 9261 4281. We can set up a free appointment with the civil lawyers in our Sydney office.