A New South Wales (NSW) Police officer has admitted to an inquiry that strip searches conducted at the 2018 Splendour In The Grass music festival were unlawful. The senior constable (who cannot be named due to legal reasons) revealed this to the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC), who are investigating whether police engaged in “serious misconduct” by strip searching a 16-year-old female after a sniffer dog falsely detected drugs on her.
According to the commission, NSW Police conducted 19 searches searches across two days from July 20th to July 22nd, however only one patron was found to have drugs; a single Valium tablet.
The officer, who has been a part of the force for more than 14 years, told the commission that officers at the Australian event relied on general knowledge of search powers. According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporations (ABC), these obligations were allegedly not mentioned in a 15-minute morning briefing at the festival. The commission has also reportedly been told that 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 teenager involved at the center of this controversy, reportedly told the commission on Monday: “I couldn’t believe this was happening to me. I could not stop crying. I was completely humiliated.”
The officer stated that officers held “reasonable belief” the searched patrons had drugs due to sniffer dog indications, however he also reportedly stated that their needed to be “circumstances of urgency” to perform the searches.
According to ABC, the conversation continued as follows:
“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,” Mr. Adams asked.
The officer then reportedly agreed to Mr. Adams assertion.
During these four day hearings, the LECC was reportedly given figures showing that fewer than 10 per cent of people strip searched at the festival had drugs on them. The officer involved has reportedly called the incident and response “a massive learning experience.”