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Police, Fire and Emergency Management - Strip Searches

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Thursday, 9 September 2021

Tags: Police, Children and Young People, State Budget

Dr WOODRUFF - In 2019, the Examiner reported on information about the numbers of invasive strip searches of children and young people continuing in the youth detention system. The numbers they gave were that Tasmania Police subjected 173 children to being strip searched, including 71 times after guidelines had been introduced to prevent the practice. This is a serious human rights issue for those young Tasmanians and many of them would have been degraded and traumatised by that experience. It is also concerning a quarter of the numbers at that time, were strip searches of young Aboriginal Tasmanians. That is a massive overrepresentation given those people are only 4.6 per cent of the population. Can you please give me the figures of the recent year of strip searches for children and young people?

Mrs PETRUSMA - First of all, I want to put on the record that Tasmania Police do not routinely strip search minors or indeed any member of the public. In circumstances where they are necessary they conductedly call the guard for the dignity and privacy of the person concerned. I also noticed the Attorney-General has announced $1.3 million for body scanning technology. I do acknowledge the process would be quite distressful for the individual who will be subject to a strip search. The $1.3 million will help prevent the need for that process to occur. In regards to the numbers, I have been told we do not have the actual numbers of children strip searched.

Dr WOODRUFF - Can I take that as a question on notice.

Mrs PETRUSMA - You are asking how many Tasmania Police have strip searched under the age of 18 in the last year.

Dr WOODRUFF - And including subgroup by Aboriginality. I assume there is data available.

Mrs PETRUSMA - I will have to check as I am not confident that it is.

Dr WOODRUFF - How could it have been there was information reported in the Examiner about the number of strip searches by police in 2019, if that data was not available?

Mrs PETRUSMA - What was the figure you had for 2019?

Dr WOODRUFF - One hundred and seventy. The Examiner. I asked a question and this was reported in June last June 2020 so it would have been for the 2019-20 year. It was reported that there were 173 children strip searched and 71 times that occurred outside of the guidelines produced to prevent the practice. A quarter of these were Tasmanian Aboriginal children.

Ms ADAMS - Was it attributed to Tasmania Police or in a custodial facility?

Dr WOODRUFF - It said police. It would the case that when children go into custody before they get transferred to a facility. There is never any searching of children by Tasmania Police before go to a custodial facility?

Ms ADAMS - There is certainly searching, but Tasmania Police does not routinely strip search young people.

Dr WOODRUFF - I am not talking about 'routine'. This is the issue it is the 'non routine'.

Ms ADAMS - We transfer a juvenile prisoner to the custodial facility. Any searching is managed by the custodial facility not Tasmania Police.

Dr WOODRUFF - So, there's never any strip searching of people under the age of 18 by Tasmania Police.

Ms ADAMS - I am not saying that we do not. I am saying the occasions are limited and it is not a dataset we routinely capture.

Dr WOODRUFF - Are you saying that Tasmania Police may sometimes do that but you do not record it when it happens?

Ms ADAMS - It will be recorded on our online charging system, but not as a holistic dataset to report in a manner such as this. It is reported in relation to the individual but not in a collective dataset.

Dr WOODRUFF - Can I, nonetheless, get that information, please, minister?

Ms ADAMS - We need to get exactly what the question is because we may not be able to provide it.

Dr WOODRUFF - In the last financial year, how many times were children under the age of 18 strip-searched?

Mr HINE - Strip-searching is different to searching.

Dr WOODRUFF - I understand.

Mr HINE - Strip-searching as in: 'take all the clothes off' is extremely rare. Sometimes, for the safety of the officer and safety of the child if there is a weapon involved or those things, there may have to be a pat-down or a look but it is certainly not a strip-search.

For anyone who goes into custody, that has to be authorised by and Inspector of Police and before they are handed over to other prison services there is another search, obviously, by the Prison Service for the individual's safety. That has also been reduced and the Prison Service would have those figures about who is searching in those situations.

We have dealt with the Commissioner of Children with relation to this issue and reduced, where we possibly can, the number of strip-searches or searches of young people. We understand it is traumatic but strip-searching is a rare occasion.

Dr WOODRUFF - I understand. I will put the question on notice.

Mrs PETRUSMA - Before we move to Ms Ogilvie, the Deputy Commissioner has a response to a previous question.

Ms ADAMS - Some further information about the strip searching question that was asked. There was a letter to the editor published by the Examiner on 30 June that said -

It's unfortunate that today's story, 'A matter of trust' - Examiner, page 1, and accompanying editorial states that strip searches of minors are carried out at Launceston and Hobart police stations. This is not the case. These searches are carried out by the Department of Justice correctional officers at the Launceston and Hobart reception centres, formerly known as remand centres. Police officers are only rarely required to conduct strip searches of a minor which are governed by strict protocols.