POLICE — STRIP SEARCHES

2813. Hon Alison Xamon to the minister representing the Minister for Police:

I refer to the answers to my question on notice 2700, regarding children who were strip searched by police in 2018–19, and I ask:

(a)  how many of these children were Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander;

(b)  for what reasons were each of the 1,450 children strip searched;

(c)  how many items were found during these searches;

(d)  what items, and how many of each type of item, were found;

(e)  at the time they were searched, how many of these children were:

(i)  suspected of a criminal offence;

(ii)  charged with a criminal offence;

(f)  please advise which criminal offences the children were:

(i)  suspected of;

(ii)  charged with; and

(g)  how many of the searches occurred in the presence of a parent or guardian;

(h)  please table any policies, procedures or protocols, about strip searching children?

Hon Stephen Dawson replied:
The Western Australia Police Force advise:

(a)  494 persons were of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander ethnicity.

(b)  Strip searches conducted in police custody occur under the authority of section135 of the Criminal Investigation Act 2006 (CIA), which provides that a person in custody may be searched for security risk items. Section 135 defines security risk items as any thing that could endanger the person themselves or any other person; that could be used to assist a person to escape from lawful custody; and that could adversely affect the security, good order or management of a place where the person is being kept in custody.

The decision by police to strip search a person is assessed on a case by case basis. Strip searches are undertaken where a detained person is assessed as being high risk. Assessment takes into consideration the person’s history and the information available at the time of the custody episode.

Examples of high risk factors include:

A history or threats of self-harm;

Prior weapons or firearms related offences, or alerts indicating the person may be in possession of these items;

Admitted drug use, prior drug offences, or alerts indicating drug use; and

Prior or current violence towards police.

Table 1 sets out some of the key factors taken into account in determining that a detainee was high risk and therefore a strip search was required. The table summarises the risk factors based on analysis of free text field records. As such, this table does not provide an exhaustive list of the risk factors that were taken into account in determining that a strip search for security risk items should be undertaken. A strip search may be captured against multiple risk factors in Table 1, if multiple relevant keywords are associated with that strip search (e.g. if the strip search reason makes reference to both drugs and weapons).

Table 1: Risk factors documented in determining that a strip search should be undertaken, in respect of the 1,450 strip searches conducted on persons aged under 18 years while in police custody in 2018–19.

Risk factor

# of strip searches mentioning this risk factor

Drugs

480

Self-harm

86

Escape

9

Weapons / firearms

71

Assault or violence towards police

14

(c) Due to recording practices, the Western Australia Police Force is unable to advise how many items were found during strip searches. Property items related to a custody episode are recorded in the free text records of the custody episode. Due to the variety of items recorded and methods of recording items, this information cannot be effectively aggregated.

(d) As noted in part (c), due to recording practices and the limitations of aggregating free text information, the WA Police Force cannot provide a list of items identified during strip searches, in an automated manner.

 (e)     (i)  in 2018–19, 963 strip searches were conducted on persons aged under 18 years, where the last recorded custody reason at or before the time of the strip search was uncharged suspect.

                        (ii) In 2018–19, 132 strip searches were conducted on persons aged under 18 years, where the person had a custody reason at or before the time of the strip search of charged suspect.

(f)      (i)  Table 2: Count of strip searches conducted where the person was suspected of, but not charged with an offence, at the time of the strip search, by charges recorded.

Act

Section

Sub-section

Description of offence

# of strip searches

Bail Act 1982

51 (1)

Breach of Bail Undertaking

2

Bail Act 1982

51 (2)

Breach of Bail (Fail to appear soon after)

1

Bail Act 1982

51 (2a)

Breach of protective bail conditions

5

Criminal Code (WA)

146  

Escaping from lawful custody

1

Criminal Code (WA)

172 (2)

Obstructing public officers

3
 

Criminal Code (WA)

304 (2)(b)

Unlawful act or omission with intent to harm (endangering life, health or safety of any person)

1

Criminal Code (WA)

313 (1)

Common assault

1

Criminal Code (WA)

313 (1)(a)

Common Assault in Circumstances of Aggravation or Racial Aggravation

1

Criminal Code (WA)

313 (1)(b)

Common Assault

2

Criminal Code (WA)

317 (1)

Aggravated Assault Occasioning Bodily Harm

2

Criminal Code (WA)

317 (1)

Assault Occasioning Bodily Harm

1

Criminal Code (WA)

317A (c)

Assault with Intent to Prevent Arrest of a Person

1

Criminal Code (WA)

318 (1)(d)

Assault Public Officer

1

Criminal Code (WA)

318 (1)(e)

Assault Person Performing a Public Function

1

Criminal Code (WA)

378  

Steal Motor Vehicle (as defined in section 371A Criminal Code.)

8

Criminal Code (WA)

378   Stealing

16

Criminal Code (WA)

392 (c)

Armed Robbery

1

Criminal Code (WA)

392 (c) & (d)

Aggravated Armed Robbery

2

Criminal Code (WA)

392 (d)

Aggravated Robbery

1

Criminal Code (WA)

393 (c)

Armed Assault with Intent to Rob

1

Criminal Code (WA)

397 (2)

Demanding Property by Oral Threats

1

Criminal Code (WA)

401 (1)(a)

Aggravated home burglary with intent

1

Criminal Code (WA)

401 (1)(ba)

Aggravated burglary with intent

1

Criminal Code (WA)

401 (1)(c)

Burglary with intent

1

Criminal Code (WA)

401 (2)(a)

Aggravated home burglary and commit

3

Criminal Code (WA)

401 (2)(b)

Home burglary and commit

1

Criminal Code (WA)

401 (2)(ba)

Aggravated Burglary and commit

10

Criminal Code (WA)

401 (2)(c)

Burglary and commit

3

Criminal Code (WA)

417 (1)

Possession of stolen or unlawfully obtained property

1

Criminal Code (WA)

444 (1)(a)

Criminal Damage by Fire

1

Criminal Code (WA)

444 (1)(b)

 Criminal Damage or Destruction of Property

6

Criminal Code (WA)

445  

Unlawful Damage

2

Criminal Code (WA)

68 (1)

Being armed in a way that may cause fear

1

Criminal Code (WA)

70A (2) Tresspass 5

Criminal Code (WA)

74A (2)(b)

Disorderly behaviour in a police station or lockup

1

Criminal Investigation (Identifying People) Act 2002

16 (8)

Give False Personal Details To Police

1

 Misuse Of Drugs Act 1981

7 (2)

Cultivate a Prohibited Plant

1

Restraining Orders Act 1997

61 (1)

Breach Family Violence Restraining Order or Violence Restraining Order

3

Road Traffic Act 1974

49 (1)(a)

No authority to drive (never held)

2

Aviation Transport Security Regulations 2005 (Cth)

3.17 (2)

Entry to airside areas and airside security zones of security controlled airports

1

Bail Act 1982

51 (1)

Breach of Bail Undertaking

5

Bail Act 1982

51 (2a)

Breach of protective bail conditions

2

Criminal Code (WA)

146  

Escaping from lawful custody

2

Criminal Code (WA)

172 (2)

Obstructing public officers

2

Criminal Code (WA)

294 (3)

Committed an act intended to cause GBH or prevent arrest in the course of an aggravated home burglar

1

Criminal Code (WA)

313 (1)

Common assault

1

Criminal Code (WA)

313 (1)(a)

Common Assault in Circumstances of Aggravation or Racial Aggravation

1

Criminal Code (WA)

313 (1)(b)

Common Assault

2

Criminal Code (WA)

317 (1)

Assault Occasioning Bodily Harm.

1

Criminal Code (WA)

318 (1)(d)

Assault Public Officer

3

Criminal Code (WA)

318 (1)(d) & (2)(a)

Assault Public Officer (Prescribed Circumstances, Juvenile)

1

Criminal Code (WA)

338B (a)

Threaten to Kill

1

Criminal Code (WA)

338B (b)

Threats to injure, endanger or harm any person

1

Criminal Code (WA)

371 (1) Stealing 1

Criminal Code (WA)

378  

Attempted Steal Motor Vehicle as Defined in section 371A

1

Criminal Code (WA)

378  

Steal Motor Vehicle (as defined in section 371A Criminal Code.)

14

Criminal Code (WA)

378   Stealing 18

Criminal Code (WA)

378 (5)(a)

Stealing from Person of another

1

Criminal Code (WA)

392 (c) & (d)

Aggravated Armed Robbery

1

Criminal Code (WA)

392 (d)

Aggravated Robbery

5

Criminal Code (WA)

396  

Demand Property with Threats with Intent to Steal

1

Criminal Code (WA)

401 (1)(b)

Home burglary with intent

3

Criminal Code (WA)

401 (1)(ba)

Aggravated burglary with intent

3

Criminal Code (WA)

401 (1)(c)

Burglary with intent

1

Criminal Code (WA)

401 (2)(a)

Aggravated home burglary and commit

8

Criminal Code (WA)

401 (2)(b)

Home burglary and commit

1

Criminal Code (WA)

401 (2)(ba)

Aggravated Burglary and commit

10

Criminal Code (WA)

417 (1)

Possession of stolen or unlawfully obtained property

2

Criminal Code (WA)

444 (1)(b)

Criminal Damage or Destruction of Property

5

Criminal Code (WA)

445  

Unlawful Damage

4

Criminal Code (WA)

68 (1)

Being armed in a way that may cause fear

1

Criminal Code (WA)

70A (2)

Trespass

2

Criminal Code (WA)

74A (2)(a)

Disorderly behaviour in a public place

1

Misuse Of Drugs Act 1981

7B (2)

Possess a Prohibited Drug (Cannabis)

2

Misuse Of Drugs Act 1981

7B (6)

Possessed any drug paraphernalia in or on which there was
a prohibited drug or plant

2

Restraining Orders Act 1997

61 (1)

Breach Family Violence Restraining Order or Violence Restraining Order

3

Restraining Orders Act 1997

61 (2a)

Breach of a Police Order

2

Road Traffic (Administration)
Act 2008

44  

Driver of a vehicle failed to comply with a direction to stop

1

Road Traffic Act 1974

49 (1)(a)

No authority to drive (never held)

8

Road Traffic Act 1974

56 (4)

Driver fail to report an incident in which property was damaged

1

Road Traffic Act 1974

60 (1A)(b)

Reckless driving to escape pursuit by police

1

Road Traffic Act 1974

62  

Careless Driving

1

Road Traffic Act 1974

64 (1)

Exceed 0.08g alcohol per 100ml of blood

1

 

  1. (g)  Due to recording practices, the WA Police Force is unable to advise the number of strip searches which occurred in the presence of a parent or guardian.
  2. (h)  Please see tabled document titled ‘Search Training & Legislation’. [See tabled paper no 3755. - Hon Alison Xamon — QON 2813 — Details of Children who were Stripped Searched by Police in 2018-19]

Statistics are provisional and subject to revision.

Western Australia Police Force (WA Police Force) defines the term ‘strip search’ as: An authorised officer(s) undertaking a search of a person under the CIA, and may do any or all of the following:

Remove any article that the person is wearing including any article covering their private parts Search any article removed
Search the person’s external parts, including their private parts
Search the person’s mouth but not any other orifice.

The term ‘custody’ refers to the process undertaken by the WA Police Force to detain an individual which under the custodial operational philosophy is necessary to:

Secure the attendance of people for judicial processes;
Ensure the integrity of evidence (physical, identifying particulars and interview); or

Provide care to vulnerable people in a safe and secure environment where no alternative to police detention exists.

The count of strip searches conducted by the WA Police Force has been derived from recorded events during a period of custody where the event description indicates that a strip search has taken place. The descriptions identified as relevant are:

Search – strip
Detainee search – strip
Other custodial event – strip search
Other custody event – strip search
Other custodial event – strip search conducted

As this is a free text field, it is possible that a small number of strip searches have not been included where they have been recorded using a different description; however, analysis indicates that this margin would be less than 2%. Age has been determined based on the known date of birth and the strip search event date.

In respect of part (a), the identification of a person as being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander ethnicity is based on a person’s stated ethnicity including Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, or if unspecified, this is based on an officer’s subjective assessment of ethnic appearance. Care should be exercised in the interpretation of these statistics, as a subjective assessment means it is possible that a person is attributed to a particular group when they do not necessarily belong to that group.

In respect of part (b) and specifically Table 1, relevant risk factors have been determined based on a key word search of the free text ‘strip search rationale’ field, for the following terms:

Drugs: ‘drug’, ‘drog’ (as an identified misspelling of drug), ‘cannabis’, ‘marijuana’, ‘meth’, ‘solvent’, ‘needle’, ‘crack’ and ‘dope’.

Self-harm: ‘self*harm” (to capture those with and without a hyphen’, ‘self*injur’ and ‘suicide’.

Escape: ‘escape’ and ‘flight risk’.

Weapons/ firearms: ‘weapon’, ‘firearm’, ‘armed’, ‘knife’ and ‘knives’.

Assault or violence towards police: ‘assault*police’ (to capture the variety in tense), ‘assault*public officer’, ‘violence towards police’, ‘assault PO’, ‘threat*police’ and ‘assault*PAO’.

Note – the key words searched for each category reflect key words identified within the available rationales. Variances in tense and grammar were accounted for where identified or considered likely. The inclusion of a strip search rationale into any key risk factor category is dependent upon the presence of one of the above terms.

In respect of parts (e) and (f), where a person was recorded with a custody reason of ‘suspect charged’ at any time prior to the strip search being conducted, they are considered to still be a charged suspect at the time of the strip search, unless their custody reason changed to ‘suspect uncharged’ before the search occurred. If the person’s last recorded custody reason prior to the strip search is ‘suspect uncharged’, they are considered to be an uncharged suspect for the strip search.

Note that persons aged under 18 years have not been included in parts (e) and (f), if they were detained in police custody for other reasons.

In respect of part (f), the charges recorded against the person, are as at the time of the strip search being conducted. Specifically, the charges set out in Tables 2 and 3 are the charges as formally recorded prior to the strip search being undertaken, with a view to identifying what the person being strip searched was suspected of or charged with at the time of the search.

Charges can be recorded in a variety of ways, including in free text fields, formal charge fields, or in other systems. The results in Tables 2 and 3 are limited to those recorded formally in the CMA under a ‘record charges’ event. Note that charges can also be captured in the Prosecution Application, as the primary application to capture charges, or the Incident Management System (IMS), as the primary system to capture details of ongoing investigations. Charges recorded in systems other than CMA are not captured in Tables 2 and 3.

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