The Law in NSW

In New South Wales strip search laws are found within sections 31, 32, 33, 34, 34A & Part 15 of the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002 (NSW) (LEPRA).

For a search at a police station or place of detention, a police officer may conduct such a search if the ‘officer suspects on reasonable grounds that the strip search is necessary for the purposes of the search’ (s.31(a), LEPRA)

For a search outside a police station, police may conduct such a search if the officer ‘suspects on reasonable grounds that the strip search is necessary for the purposes of the search and that the seriousness and urgency of the circumstances make the strip search necessary ‘(s.31(b), LEPRA).

The Law in NSW

The law requires a police officer to preserve privacy and dignity as much as possible in the circumstances (s.32, LEPRA).

Under s.32 of LEPRA a police officer must:

  • Inform the person of the search and why it is necessary to remove clothing
  • Ask the person being searched for their cooperation
  • Conduct the search in privacy
  • Conduct the search as quickly as possible
  • Conduct the search in the least invasive way
  • Not search the person’s genitals
  • Not search the person’s breasts (this includes a person who identifies as transgender), unless they suspect on reasonable grounds it is necessary
  • Be conducted by a police officer of the same sex as the person searched
  • Not question the person while conducting the search
  • Allow the person to dress as soon as the search is finished, and
  • If clothes are seized, police must ensure the person is left with reasonable and appropriate clothing

Under s.33 of the LEPRA a police officer who strip searches a person must (as far as reasonably practicable in the circumstances):

  • Conduct the strip search in private
  • Not conduct the search in the presence of a person of opposite sex to the person being searched
  • Only conduct the search in the presence or view of a person who is necessary for the purpose of the search
  • Allow a parent, guardian or personal representative to be present if requested and reasonably practicable
  • Not involve a search of body cavities or touching the person’s body
  • Not remove any more clothes than are necessary

Section 33 also provides that in relation to children between the ages of 10 and 18 or persons with an intellectual disability:

  • Strip searches must be conducted in the presence of a parent or guardian. If none available, then another person who is not a police officer who represents the interests of person being searched must be present.
  • Police are not required to have a guardian or parent present if they suspect on reasonable grounds that a delay with the search would conceal or destroy evidence, or an immediate search is necessary to protect the safety of a person.
  • Police must make a record of such a decision.
  • No strip searches are allowed of a person under the age of 10 years.
  • Police may search a person with their consent before commencing a search. The office must provide evidence they are a police officer and their name and place of duty.

Police must provide the following information to a person subject to a strip search:

  • Evidence they are a police officer. Being in police uniform is sufficient evidence.
  • Their name and place of duty
  • The reason for the strip search