Festival-goers launch strip-search lawsuit

·2-min read

NSW music festival-goers have launched a class action against the state, claiming police carried out unlawful acts including assault, battery and false imprisonment in festival drug searches.

The lawsuit was on behalf of people "invasively and unlawfully searched by police at music festivals over the past six years," Slater and Gordon Lawyers and Redfern Legal Centre said on Friday.

The statement of claim, filed in the NSW Supreme Court, alleged police carried out assaults, batteries and false imprisonment on festival-goers while searching them for drugs, they said in a joint statement.

"Group members also allege that some people who were searched - including minors - were directed by police to lift or remove items of clothing, lift their breasts or genitals, or strip naked and squat and cough so officers could visually inspect body cavities," the lawyers said.

"Women were ordered to remove sanitary products so they too could be inspected."

The claimants sought damages, aggravated damages and exemplary damages, which could total tens of thousands of dollars for those subjected to "particularly invasive or distressing searches", they said.

They cited the case of lead plaintiff Raya Meredith, whom they said was strip searched for 30 minutes at the 2018 Splendour in the Grass festival, with no drugs found.

The invasive search allegedly took place in a structure that lacked privacy and involved a male police officer entering the room while she was undressed.

The legal action could obtain compensation for potentially thousands of people unlawfully searched by NSW police over the past six years.

In 2020, the NSW Law Enforcement Conduct Commission found officers were not properly trained on strip-searching children and did not understand relevant laws.

It also found police could not order people to strip naked on a general belief that some music festival patrons would conceal drugs.

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