Rev. Lorna Green, an Anglican parish priest is among eight religious protesters strip-searched by WA Police after a peaceful demonstration at Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s office.
Can the Commissioner of Police please explain why eight religious leaders undertaking a peaceful protest were strip-searched?
According to the relevant laws it seems that unless a strip search is specifically allowed, one must not be conducted unless it is reasonably necessary (see ss 72 and 135 CIA). Strong words. Furthermore a strip search might only be considered reasonably necessary where a person is suspected of a drug offence or a weapons offence, they are known to be suicidal, they are charged with a very serious offence, or police believe it is in the interests of safety to strip search them. Again, very strong words that do not appear to fit the situation of people participating in a prayer vigil in Julie Bishop’s electorate office. It was reported that the protesters have only been charged with trespass. Surely, trespass, is not a serious offence?
If the police searcher wants someone to remove any of their clothing, they must explain why it is necessary. If the Police Commissioner cannot explain how the strip searches conducted on these religious leaders fits within the legal framework as outlined, it would appear that the police are unaccountable in their use of strip searches.
It has been argued that by giving police officers the power to strip search, they are being given the right to sexually assault. In doing this, any right of the victim to resist, to complain and to have their experience of the assault legitimated is removed. If nothing else, it is a punitive action taken under inappropriate circumstances.