Splendour In The Grass attendees in push for compensation over ‘unlawful’ strip searches
Redfern Legal Centre and Slater & Gordon Lawyers have today announced that they’ll be launching a class action investigation into unlawful strip searching by police at Splendour In The Grass in recent years.
The investigation will look into the 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 iterations of the festival, where representatives for S&G say that hundreds of people were believed to be unlawfully strip searched. It’s also believed that those impacted could be entitled to “substantial compensation”, with serious cases potentially being eligible for remuneration of five figures.
Slater & Gordon senior associate Dr. Ebony Birchall said that an unlawful strip search as “classified by law as an assault and gives rise to compensation”.
The law firm said that some punters searched by police, including some who were underage, were allegedly “directed to lift or remove items of clothing, strip naked and squat and cough, or lift their genitals so officers could visually inspect body cavities”.
A press conference will be held at 3pm today at Slater & Gordon’s Sydney office, where a man who was unlawfully searched at Splendour 2016 will be there to share his story and answer questions.
In addition, Redfern Legal Centre and Slater & Gordon have shared an alleged case of unlawful strip searching by ‘Ruby’, whose name was changed for privacy reasons, and their experience at the festival in 2017.
Ruby, who was 23 at the time, said the officers involved were “condescending” and “unprofessional”, as a female officer told them that she was “positive [they] have drugs on [their] person” when they didn’t, and only had their insulin due to being diabetic.
Ruby said that a male officer peered into the tent when they were being strip searched.
“I felt violated because the male officer stared at me while I was naked.”
Later that day, Ruby was searched once again, after a male officer told her there was no limit on how many times someone could be strip searched in one day. When Ruby asked for the same officer to conduct the search as before, the male officer said that “she’s busy” and continued to conduct the search.
“I shouldn’t have been treated like this, no one should be treated like this,” Ruby said.
Redfern Legal Centre and Slater & Gordon are urging anyone who believes they were unlawfully strip searched at Splendour between 2016 and 2019 to come forward and confidentially register their story to see how they might be impacted by the findings of the investigation.
A festival inquest in 2019 into the deaths of six people at NSW festivals recommended the removal of drug dogs from festival grounds to help reduce overdoses by punters.
Data obtained and shared by the Greens the previous year also showed that 64% of searches prompted by drug dogs resulted in false positives.