Following a roundtable discussion in Sydney today on the topic of NSW Police strip searches, Samantha Lee, Solicitor, and Head of Police Accountability at Redfern Legal Centre has offered tips for music festival attendees.

Did you know that you don’t have to consent to a strip search? What about the fact that if you’re under 17-years-old you need to have a parent, a guardian or support person present?

Following the release of the recent ‘Rethinking Strip Searches by NSW Police’ report, strip searches at festivals are an important topic among lobbyists.

The report revealed police strip searches in New South Wales have increased almost twentyfold in 12 years, and in the last four years alone we’ve seen a 46% jump in strip searches. And not all strip searches are being conducted in line with current legislation; more on that here.

Today, representatives from Redfern Legal Centre, Police Accountability, UNSW Faculty of Law, music industry, women’s right and health came together to discuss why strip search law needs to change and what needs to be done to change it.

What should you know if you are about to be strip searched?

  • You can say you don’t consent.
    Current legislation states there must be a “serious and urgent” reason to conduct a strip search, but what that is, is currently not clear.
  • Tell them you’re aged 17-years-old or under
    If you’re under the age of 18, you should wait for a support person to be present before you are strip searched.
  • You don’t have to provide your ID/name or details
    Providing your details places you in the Police database and may be used to form legal suspicion later on. You don’t have to provide identification unless something illegal is found on you.NSW Police are not allowed to ask or search for your ID (or search through your wallet) unless they have good reasons to believe you’ve been witness to a high-end offence.
  • Ensure the police officer is recording with their BMV and/or notebook
    Most police are asked to have their Body Worn Video turned on and legislation states police must record strip searches and have to ‘tag’ it if they want it kept for a long period of time.If you don’t want to be searched, you should say you don’t consent and have that comment video recorded, if not, ask them to write it in their log.
Police BMV device
Police BMV
  • Ask for the reasons for search
    NSW legislation states police can conduct strip searches if seriousness and urgency of the circumstances make the strip search necessary (LEPRA s.31(b)). Just because a sniffer dog sat down next to you is not a serious and urgent reason.
  • Take a friend with you
    While police must record strip searches, they can take up to 48 hours to log them in their systems. Have someone film from a distance; this is legal as their media policy notes that they can’t stop anyone from filming unless it is hindering or obstructing their job.
  • You can legally resist an unlawful strip search
    It is legal, but it is risky. This means the police can legally use force to strip search you, and may charge you with resisting in court.