Lawyers are calling for you to get in touch.
Class action lawyers believe that hundreds of young Australians were illegally body searched at the Splendor In The Grass festivals between 2016 and 2019, and urge them to join the case against the New South Wales Police Department.
Slater and Gordon have launched a class action lawsuit against the New South Wales Police Department after an investigation into body searches – in the broader sense – was conducted in collaboration with the Redfern Legal Center for the past six years.
“We believe that people who have been illegally body searched are entitled to substantial compensation. So in severe cases, compensation could be tens of thousands of dollars, ”Ebony Birchall, class action lawyer at Slater and Gordon, told triple j’s hack.
“We haven’t seen a class action lawsuit in Australia related to unlawful body searches … so we think this is a really unique and important way to clarify the body search law and highlight this issue and most importantly, get compensation for those who were killed by these illegal searches are affected. “
While the investigation more broadly focused on strip searches across the state, the class action lawsuit focused solely on Splendor In The Grass – where strip searches were widespread.
“The [NSW Police Watchdog] The Law Enforcement Conduct Commission has already investigated body searches in Splendor in the Grass and gained findings that show that the police are not trained and have not understood the legal safety precautions for body searches, ”said Birchall.
Under New South Wales law, “The police can never do body searches as a matter of course. The police must always be able to give reasons for every decision to search the body. “
The police may only carry out a body search if “the officer has reasonable grounds to suspect that the body search is necessary for the purpose of the search and the severity and urgency of the circumstances make the body search necessary”.
According to NSW Police Department guidelines, a reference to drug dogs (e.g., if a dog sits down next to you at a festival and indicates that it has smelled illegal substances) is not a sufficient reason for a body search.
“Patrol searches are very invasive procedures and the law has a very strict check on when they are legal. The circumstances have to be very serious and urgent for a body search to be warranted, ”Alexis Goodstone, principal attorney for Redfern Legal Center, told Hack.
“We know from the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission that body searches at music festivals are illegal simply because there is a well-founded suspicion of drug possession, and yet we know that this was the basis for most searches at Splendor.”
In a statement sent to Hack, a spokesman for NSW police claimed that the legality of the body searches was a matter for the court.
“It is ultimately up to the court to determine whether a search has been carried out lawfully. When determining whether a body search is required, the police must have reasonable grounds for suspecting serious and urgent circumstances. In making this decision, the police will take into account all available information, including the risk of overdose or death. “
Junkee has approached Splendor In The Grass for comment, although there is no allegation that the festival – or its organizers – were involved in the allegedly illegal searches.
If you were illegally body searched after 2016, you can contact Slater and Gordon through their website to participate in the class action lawsuit.