Years of illegal strip-search claims have been slowly eroding public confidence in the police, and now NSW lawyers are preparing to launch a class-action lawsuit against the NSW police force.
The decision follows years of misconduct and mountains of evidence showing the NSW police consistently misuse strip searches, causing severe emotional distress and trauma to their victims.
Despite growing evidence gathered through coroner’s reports, internal police documents and police watchdog initiatives, NSW lawmakers have so far failed to push for legislative change.
The failure of lawmakers to take action has meant that an increasing amount of innocent citizens have been subject to humiliating and dehumanising illegal strip searches, with no compensation or any formal channels to complain about the misconduct.
Illegal strip search claims from minors and festival goers prompt urgent action
In 2019 the NSW law enforcement conduct commission held public hearings concerning illegal strip searches inflicted upon minors at music festivals. The hearings revealed significant wrongdoing and breaches of strip-search laws.
Two such strip searches included one of a 16-year-old girl who was reported to have been left feeling fearful and in tears after being subject to an illegal strip search where she was forced strip naked and squat while a police officer ‘looked underneath’ her at the 2018 Splendour in the Grass festival.
And it’s not just a few rare encounters leading to these claims, in fact, a report by The Guardian Australia claiming 122 girls, including two 12-year olds, had been strip-searched in the past three years.
Samantha Lee is a police accountability lawyer taking on the class-action case spoke to The Guardian to discuss the case.
“Horrific stories of police strip-searches continue to come to light, including from children as young as 10 years old who were directed to strip naked, squat and cough, lift their genitals, and have a police officer look into their body cavities, without the support of a parent or guardian present,” Samantha Lee, the police accountability lawyers
“By seeking long-overdue justice for people who have been unlawfully searched, this class action is also an important step toward achieving change to prevent more traumatic and unnecessary strip searches in NSW.”
The class-action will be focussed on gaining significant financial compensation for the victim’s claims in cases similar to Attalla vs State of NSW. The 2019 case saw Paramount Law win a suit against the state of NSW over an illegal strip search of Mr Attalla in Darlinghurst in 2019.
In this case, Mr Attalla was awarded $112k for an illegal strip-search claim with the presiding judge, Judge Taylor, stating “the state’s concession in relation to the strip-search illustrates that the police officers have used a most invasive power without the slightest justification.”