Strip-searches on youth should be illegal, Ombudsman says

Strip-searches on youth should be illegal, Ombudsman says

The NSW Ombudsman has stated that naked strip-searches performed on three children in view of CCTV cameras were unreasonable. The Ombudsman also recommended outlawing such searches.

Three children climbed onto the roof of the Frank Baxter Youth Justice Centre in November 2019 and refused to come down. According to a report tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, the children had access to building materials and tools and made “serious threats to the safety of staff”.

Forced to lift their scrotums

Frank Baxter Youth Justice Centre, Kariong on the NSW Central Coast
Frank Baxter Youth Justice Centre, Kariong on the NSW Central Coast

The youth justice centre is usually run by Youth Justice NSW. They called Corrective Services NSW for back-up when the incident occurred. A team of highly trained elite operatives arrived to attempt to handle the youth.

They took detainees to cells and strip-searched them, naked, in front of CCTV cameras.

They forced the boys to remove all items of clothing, lift their scrotums and penises. In one instance a boy had to bend over and part his buttocks for inspection with a torch.

The searches were technically lawful.

However, the Ombudsman found it was unreasonable, oppressive, and disproportionate to the risks posed. They also found it was wrong to do the strip searches in front of CCTV cameras.

“Given the nature of any possible items that might reasonably have been suspected to be concealed by the detainees, the search need not have been as extensive or invasive as it was,” the report found.

“There was no reason why, after each detainee’s clothes had been removed and examined, the detainees then needed to have their genitalia or buttocks area inspected.

“It was wrong to strip search the detainees in view of CCTV cameras.”

All searches were lawful

The Department of Communities and Justice issued a statement in which they defended the searches.

“The searches were conducted in compliance with all policies and in an area away from public view,” a spokeswoman said.

“Since this incident, [Corrective Services] NSW and Youth Justice have revised their operational protocols so that partially clothed body searches will be undertaken by youth justice officers.”

If you believe you may have suffered an unlawful search while in custody, contact O’Brien Criminal & Civil Solicitors. We will provide you with a free consultation.

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