NSW strip-search cop denies touching boy

Aine Fox

A police officer has strongly rejected an accusation he touched a 16-year-old boy's genitals and buttocks during a strip-search at a Sydney music festival.

The detective sergeant was named in police paperwork in relation to the search of the teen, who claimed he put his hands in his underwear, but the officer said that "definitely" didn't happen.

In testy exchanges at a police watchdog hearing into strip-searches at the Lost City Festival in February the policeman insisted his actions were justified in searching up to four teenagers without an appropriate adult present.

The officer, who cannot be named, said he was convinced of the urgency of the situation, telling of his concern the teens had been involved in a drug deal and might destroy evidence by swallowing drugs.

"Time was of the essence," he said.

The officer, who said he was well aware of his legal obligations when searching young people, was asked what steps he took to get a parent, guardian or independent support person to be present for the searches.

"None, sir," the officer of 26 years told the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission chief commissioner Michael Adams QC.

"Because I was of the view that delaying a search of those young persons would risk the loss of evidence."

The boy - one of up to eight teens stopped after an undercover security worker claimed he had seen drugs sold - has told the commission in a statement that a male officer who was not wearing gloves made contact with his genitals and buttocks during a search.

No drugs were found on the teen but he was thrown out of the festival anyway.

The detective sergeant said he cannot be sure the teen was one of those he strip-searched.

He replied "definitely not" when asked if he had put his hand inside the boy's underwear and touched his skin.

He said the young person was either mistaken in what he recalled as having happened or the search was done by another officer.

When it was put to him by Dr Peggy Dwyer, counsel assisting the commission, that it is difficult to verify the story due to the fact there was no-one else at any of the searches he carried out, he said: "I'm aware of that."

The officer, after attempting to explain his justification for the searches, rejected scathing criticism from Mr Adams who accused him of "making this up as you go along".

Mr Adams said the officer appeared to have relied simply on information from a security worker, not having seen any drug deal take place with his own eyes.

"I relied on my experience, sir," he responded.

The commissioner said he had failed to include a series of "vital" details on the COPS event - a form completed after searches are performed.

"That means that any investigation by this commission, quite apart from your commissioner, is stymied for lack of relevant information. Do you agree that's the objective consequence of your omissions?" Mr Adams asked him.

"Yes, maybe," he replied.

The hearing is expected to last the rest of this week.