Girl, 16, 'can no longer trust police' after strip search
The following is the statement of the 16 year old female, who was strip searched at Splendour in the Grass in 2018, made at a Law Enforcement Conduct Commission hearing yesterday.
It emerged the 16-year-old was forced to strip and squat in front of police officer after a sniffer dog mistakenly singled her out for attention.
On 20 July 2018, I attended Splendour in the Grass Festival held at North Byron Parklands, Wooyung, NSW. This is the first time I had attended this festival without parental supervision. My parents were at home caring for my little sister.
I arrived at the festival at approximately 2.30pm with three of my friends.
My friends and I lined up at the front gate to go into the festival. There are a number of lines to go into the festival. I was in "the no bags line" to go into the festival. All my friends were in "the bags line." As I was waiting to go into the festival, a sniffer dog came up to me and sat down next to me.
There was one police officer handling the dog and another two police officers came up to me when the dog sat down. There were two male police officers and one female police officer. The police officer handling the dog said to me words to the effect of "Put your hands where I can see them and don't reach for anything". I put my hands out to either side of my body and the police officer said to me words to the effect of "Come with us. We are going to have to search you for drugs."
I was led into the main gate by the three police officers. I had to walk with the police officers surrounding me with my hands in the air. I felt completely humiliated. People were yelling out saying that the police had someone. I was really scared because I did not have any drugs on me and I was completely alone. As we were walking towards the police tents, one of the police officers asked me with words to the effect of "How old are you?" I replied words to the effect of "Sixteen".
One of the male police officers left us and I was walked through some fencing that separated the police area from the festival area by the remaining police officers. I was led to the police tent and made to wait outside the tent. While I was waiting, one of the police officers asked if I had any identification on me. I replied to the police words to the effect of "Yes. Can I grab my phone out of my pocket?" My Drivers Licence was behind my phone case. The police officer replied words to the effect of "Yes that's fine". I pulled my phone out of my denim jacket pocket. At the same time my phone started ringing and I asked if I could answer the call. The police officer replied words to the effect of "No you can answer it afterward". The police officer took both my phone and my
Drivers Licence. The police officer looked at my Drivers Licence and the police officer then walked away with my phone and my Drivers Licence.
I became really frightened at this stage because I had lost all contact with anyone I knew. I started to cry. The police then started to ask me lots of questions relating to whether I had taken drugs or whether I was around people taking drugs. I answered no to all their questions. Another girl that looked my age came out of the police tent and I was led inside by the female police officer. The police officer said to me words to the effect of "Stand in the corner of the tent for more privacy." The police officer then put on blue gloves. At this point I assumed the police officer was going to pat me down and maybe ask me to remove my jacket and shorts. I was wearing a lace leotard with a pair of denim shorts over the top and a large denim jacket.
The police officer said to words to the effect of "Remove your jacket and hand it to me". I removed my jacket and gave it to her. I watched the police officer search my jacket and nothing was found. She put my jacket on the ground and she told me to take off my shorts. I took off my shorts and gave them to her. She then searched my shorts. The police officer then told me to remove my leotard. I pulled my leotard down to my waist. The police officer then told me to take everything off, including my underwear. I said to her words to the effect of "Completely everything?" At that point I realised I was going to have to get naked in front of this police officer. I could not believe that this was happening to me. I could not stop crying; I was completely humiliated.
I removed all my clothing although I kept my shoes on. I had a panty liner on my underwear and the police officer asked me to remove it so she could look at it.
When the police officer had finished searching my underwear and leotard, she told me to squat on the ground. I squatted down in front of her. She then squatted down and looked underneath me. After looking she said to me words to the effect of "Okay, that's all good now you can get dressed and take your shoes off."
I got dressed and pulled my shoes off. The police officer told me to turn my socks inside out. She looked at my shoes and socks and then told me that I could put my shoes back on. I put my shoes back on and she led me outside the tent. The police officer said to me words to the effect of "Okay you can go now". I then asked for my phone and Drivers Licence back. My phone and Drivers Licence were returned and the fencing was opened so I could walk through back to the festival.
This whole process took approximately 10 minutes however it felt like a lot longer.
I rang one of my friends. She wasn't in the festival yet but I was informed another one of my friends was already in the festival waiting
I found my friend waiting in the festival. I was extremely upset; I was sobbing. I sat with my friend trying to calm down. I did not stop crying for approximately 20 minutes.
I was absolutely shocked that the police would do this to me. This incident with police occurred on the first day of the festival and I had a three day ticket. Every time I saw a police officer at the festival I started to feel anxious. My whole body would clench up and I would get clammy and hot. I was scared to make eye contact with them in case it happened again. Each time I walked into the festival I would feel anxious.
I feel that I can no longer trust police. I now feel really wary about police and I believe I would have difficulty reporting a problem to police in case I am falsely accused again. I try not to think about the incident because it is distressing and upsetting to think about it.