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When Can Police Strip Search a Person in NSW?

The Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002 empowers police officers in New South
Wales to conduct a strip search if:

1. It is carried out at a police station or other place of detention and police suspect on
reasonable grounds that a strip search is necessary, or

2. It is carried out at any other place and police suspect on reasonable grounds that a strip
search is necessary due to the seriousness and urgency of the circumstances.

Police who are intending to conduct a strip search must as far as is reasonably practicable:

1. Inform the person they intend to search as to whether the person will be required to
remove clothing and, if so, why this is necessary,

2. Ask for the person’s cooperation,

3. Conduct the search in the least invasive way that is practicable in the circumstances,

4. Not search the person’s genital area or, in the case of a female or transgender person who
identifies as female, the person’s breasts, unless the officer suspects on reasonable grounds
it is necessary in the circumstances,

5. Ensure the officer who conducts the search is the same sex as the person to be searched or,
if an officer of the same sex is not immediately available, delegate the power to a person
who is of the same sex,

6. Not carry out the search while the person is being questioned, and

7. Allow the person to dress as soon as the search is finished or, if the person’s clothing is
seized, ensure the person is given reasonably appropriate clothing.

The search may be conducted in the presence of a medical practitioner of the opposite sex if the
person who is to be searched consents.

Police are not permitted to touch the person during the search, nor are they allowed to search the
person’s body cavities.

The search must not involve a greater amount of visual inspection than the officer reasonably
believes is necessary.

The law further requires that an officer who conducts the search must, as far as is reasonably
practicable:

1. Conduct the search in a private area, and

2. Not conduct the search in the presence or view of a person of the opposite sex to the person
being searched, or any other person that is not required for the purposes of the search.

If the person to be strip searched is at least 10 but under the age of 18 years, or has impaired
intellectual functioning, the search must be conducted:

1. In the presence of a parent or guardian of the person being searched, or

2. If that is not acceptable to be young person, in the presence of another person other than a
police officer who is capable of representing the young person’s interests and acceptable to
the young person.

However, a police officer does not have to follow the requirements that relate to young persons if
the officer suspects on reasonable grounds that:

1. Delaying the search is likely to result in evidence being concealed or destroyed, or

2. An immediate search is necessary to protect the young person’s safety.

A strip search must not be conducted on a person who is under the age of 10 years.

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