Officer admits to ‘unlawful’ strip searches
A POLICE officer involved in stripsearching a 16-year-old girl who was left feeling "humiliated" at a NSW music festival has admitted there was no sense of urgency or seriousness to justify the procedure.
The senior constable, identified only as BR3, on Tuesday also admitted he made an error in the official paperwork which he "rushed" after the search at the Splendour in the Grass music festival north of Byron Bay in July 2018.
The state's Law Enforcement Conduct Commission is looking into a complaint that the teenager was searched after a false positive detection by a sniffer dog at the entrance to the festival.
According to the ABC, the officer performed 19 strip searches at the festival, and found drugs in only one case, with one person caught with a valium tablet.
While sniffer dogs provided an indication that a person may have drugs, the officer acknowledged that the searches were unlawful because there was no circumstances of urgency.
The commission was also told NSW Police did not contact the 16-year-old's parents or another responsible adult before the search despite being legally obliged to do so.
BR3 was part of the overall search process although a female colleague conducted the strip-search in private in a tent.
The inquiry on Monday heard the teenager - who can't be identified - felt "completely humiliated" when she was ordered to take all of her clothes off and squat.
BR3 on Tuesday said he had "absolutely no memory" of the incident but he was questioned about compulsory paperwork he filled out afterwards.
The hearing was told the officer had written on the form that the girl had admitted to recently using cannabis when it should have said she'd been around others who'd used cannabis.
BR3 said he had made "an error" in recording that detail incorrectly.
Chief Commissioner Michael Adams QC said: "You were obviously very careless, weren't you?" The officer replied: "In relation to that, yes."
On the decision to strip-search the girl in the first place, BR3 admitted that with hindsight there had not been the appropriate suspicion to indicate she'd been carrying drugs.
Mr Adams said: "There was nothing about the circumstances themselves which suggested any urgency or seriousness (as required by law) … is that so?" The officer agreed.
The girl told the commission that she was searched by a female officer wearing rubber gloves and was asked to take off her underwear and even lift up her pantyliner for the office to inspect.
"I couldn't believe this was happening to me. I could not stop crying. I was completely humiliated," she said.
The hearing held in Sydney continues.