NSW police carried out strip searches on more than 100 children over a two year period – including some as young as 13-years old, data has revealed.
In all more than 4,400 strip searches were conducted by NSW police between July 2020 and May 2022 despite promises to overhaul policies behind the controversial practice.
The data was obtained by the Redfern Legal Centre under freedom of information laws.
Despite making up just 3.4 per cent of the state’s population, First Nations people – including children – made up ten per cent of those who were subjected to the invasive practice.
A police spokesperson told media the powers are used as a “proactive strategy” to drive down crime, including knife possession and armed robbery.
Experts say the data is evidence that NSW police misunderstand their own strip-search powers which should only be used if the situation is urgent and serious.
The data shows around 60 per cent of searches did not reveal anything illegal.
“It is shocking to learn that even during the pandemic thousands of young people and First Nations people were subjected to harmful and invasive strip searches,” RLC police accountability senior solicitor, Samantha Lee said.
“It is simply unacceptable that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and children continue to be disproportionately over represented in these figures.
“Redfern Legal Centre welcomed NSW Police policy changes in 2020 designed to increase safeguards around strip searches, but with over 4000 invasive searches conducted since, even during periods of COVID lockdown, something is very wrong.
“To ensure public safety and provide adequate guidance to police we must see legislative change,” Ms Lee said.
Meanwhile a class-action lawsuit against the state was filed earlier this year over alleged unlawful strip-searches conducted against music festival patrons.