The family of an eight-month-old baby strip-searched by NSW Police are suing the State for compensation.
The infant was strip-searched by a female officer when his family brought him to Mid-North Coast Correctional Centre to visit his father.
The child, by way of his family, are now suing the State of NSW for false imprisonment and battery.
Baby strip-searched by police
Police stopped the family’s car just after 8:30am and directed both the mother and the child into a bus after being examined by a sniffer dog.
The baby was allegedly undressed and taken out of his nappy by a female officer. According to statement of claim, the officer then lifted and spread the baby’s legs and inspected his naked body.
The incident took place outside the Correctional Centre in September 2018. At this time, Police and Corrective Services conducted an operation to search jail visitors for illegal contraband.
Children under 10 cannot be strip-searched
The legislation which dictates the powers of NSW Police makes it clear that officers cannot strip search a child under 10. There are no circumstances that permit this.
If a child over 10 does undergo a search, the officer must be of the same sex as the child.
Further, there can be no examination by touch from the officer.
In the statement of claim, the family is claiming exemplary damages for the blatant disregard of the child’s rights.
This was “far worsened, as the female police officer knew the plaintiff was a male baby and a vulnerable person completely incapable of defending himself or asserting his rights…”, the statement said.
Blatant disregard for the rights of the child
Solicitor Peter O’Brien says the blatant disregard for civil liberties is shocking.
“Every day we see violations of civil liberties by NSW Police, but this matter feels different,” Mr O’Brien stated.
“For an officer to believe they have the right to strip-search a defenceless 8-month-old child is beyond comprehension.”
“As a father myself, this violation of a child’s safety is unfathomable.”
O’Brien Criminal & Civil Solicitors recently won a case where a woman experience an unlawful strip-search by Corrective Services at the same jail.
Police strip-searched 96 children in one year
In 2020, police strip-searched almost 100 children, some as young as 11.
Police in NSW receive repeated criticism over the use of strip searches.
In early 2020, the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC) released two separate incidents of investigations into unlawful strip-searches.
The reports followed a lengthy public inquiry into the use of the policing tactic.
A 16-year-old girl told the inquiry she was left in tears after police forced her to strip naked in front of police at the Splendour in the Grass Festival in Byron Bay.
In a statement, a NSW Police spokeswoman said the force would take a “considered approach” with the release of the final report.
The spokeswoman pointed to the decline in the number of searches of children from 175 to 96.
“A number of changes to policies, processes and training – including a new Person Search Manual, updated verification and auditing processes, and music festival procedures – have already been implemented, which have all been subject to monitoring by LECC,” the spokeswoman said.
If you experience an illegal strip search by police or corrections officers, contact our lawyers straight away.