'Strip-search could be indecent assault'

Aine Fox

The NSW police watchdog will consider whether unlawful strip-searches are indecent assaults and look at the potential psychological effects of the intrusive examinations on young people.

The planned research will be the first such analysis in NSW, according to the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission.

The body will reach out to experts to help develop best practice to reduce the risks of strip-searches taking on a sexual element, a commission hearing was told on Wednesday.

Chief commissioner Michael Adams QC said he'd hear evidence as to whether unlawful strip-searches could be classed as indecent assaults.

"Where a strip-search is not lawfully conducted, questions arise as to the legal category into which it falls," he said.

"It might be ... that strip-searches that are conducted without lawful authority may well be indecent assaults."

The commission will reach out to experts as it attempts "to identify the risks involved when such searches are conducted and how those risks might best be ameliorated so that we can develop some best practice rules around this matter".

The potential consequences of searches for young people was "an important matter to consider" not only in the commission's work but also for appropriate police practice, Mr Adams said.

"So far as I'm aware in this state no such research has ever been conducted."

The chief commissioner hopes parents or guardians whose children have been searched with "unhappy consequences" will come forward to share their experiences with experts.