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NSW cop admits music festival strip searches were ‘unlawful’

SYDNEY, Australia: An officer involved in policing at Splendour in the Grass last year has admitted to an inquiry strip searches conducted at the music festival were unlawful.

The commission was told that a senior constable performed 19 strip searches across two days at the July 2018 festival and found only one tablet of valium.

The Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC) is investigating whether police engaged in “serious misconduct” by strip-searching a 16-year-old girl after a sniffer dog falsely detected drugs on her.

The officer, who has been in the force for more than 14 years, today told the public hearing police relied on their general knowledge of search powers.

The obligations were not mentioned in a 15-minute morning briefing at the festival.

“There were no circumstances of urgency,” Chief Commissioner Michael Adams QC said. “No,” the officer replied.

“From which it follows, I think you agree, the searches were not lawful,”  Adams said. The officer agreed.

Adams put it to the witness that the issue of urgency had never “come across your radar” when they conducted searches.

“Yes that’s fair to say, sir. This has been a massive learning experience for me,” the witness replied.

The officer said since the festival, two separate training days had been held where senior police explained the exact obligations of officers during searches.

He said despite being in the police force for over a decade, it was the first time the specific obligations had been mentioned.

In a statement seen by the LECC on Monday, the teenager said she was left feeling “completely humiliated” when she was strip searched.

The girl was searched by herself and the commission has heard police regulations dictate a parent, guardian or independent support person must be present when a person between the ages of 10 and 18 is searched.

The commission was also given figures showing fewer than 10% of people strip-searched at the festival had drugs on them.