NSW Police could be the subject of an unprecedented class action lawsuit related to unlawful strip-searches conducted in the last six years.
Redfern Legal Centre and Slater & Gordon Lawyers have joined forces to represent complainants seeking compensation who believe they have been unlawfully searched by NSW Police (since 2014).
This action builds on the Safe and Sound initiative Redfern Legal Centre introduced to improve laws and procedures related to strip-searches, particular of young people.
Dr Peta Malins, a senior lecturer in Criminology and Justice Studies at RMIT University in Melbourne, welcomes today's announcement. "It is widely recognised that strip-searches are inherently degrading, humiliating and dehumanising, and can cause deep and lasting trauma," Dr Malins says.
"As my research has shown, their use can also re-traumatise people with past experiences of sexual assault or abuse and may itself constitute a form of sexual assault.
"Revelations that NSW Police have been routinely strip-searching people, including children as young as 10, for suspicion of minor offences like drug possession, is deeply concerning."
A testimonial by Ben (27) published on Slater & Gordon's website
reads: "I was asked to take off my jacket and shirt and was patted down.
"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."
An unlawful police search is legally considered an assault. "The lasting trauma of these searches, and their impacts on police-community relations are significant," adds Dr Malins.
"I hope that this group action succeeds in getting compensation for those who have been victims of NSW Police use of drug detection dogs and strip searches, and helps pressure governments to finally put an end to their use, not only in NSW but around Australia."
'Have you been strip-searched by NSW Police? We want to hear your story. We encourage all people who have been strip-searched by NSW Police to contact us to register your interest in our investigation.
'By doing so, you have the opportunity to tell us your story, you can ensure you will receive updates about the investigation directly and you can find out more about your rights in any potential class action proceedings.' - Slater & Gordon