The state government tried to convince the NSW Supreme Court the class action into searches of festivalgoers between 2016 and 2022 should proceed on an individual basis, but Justice Peter Garling said this would “not be in the interests of the administration of justice”.
Slater & Gordon and the Redfern Legal Centre jointly filed the proceedings in July on behalf of lead plaintiff Raya Meredith, who alleged the strip searches constituted unlawful acts because they included assault, battery and false imprisonment.
Slater & Gordon associate Meg Lessing said police powers around strip searches at music festivals were examined in a 2020 report from the NSW Law Enforcement Conduct Commission, which found a widespread culture of unlawful search practices.
“Often, these have occurred in egregious circumstances, including searches of minors, or young women being required to strip in the presence of male police officers, or where the search was observable by other festival attendees,” Ms Lessing said.
Redfern Legal Centre’s senior police accountability solicitor, Samantha Lee, added the strip searches by police at these festivals are “invasive, harmful, and have a long-lasting impact on those who have been subject to such a humiliating search”.
“We hope that this class action will achieve justice for those unlawfully strip-searched, and lead to legislative change to ensure strip searches only occur in circumstances of the utmost seriousness and where there is genuine urgency to necessitate the undertaking of a strip search,” Ms Lee said.