Aboriginal elder publically 'strip-searched'

By Kelvin McDonald

Photo/TP Roberts

Australian police have denied strip-searching an Aboriginal elder in broad daylight on a busy inner city Sydney street, despite claims by Sydney Criminal Lawyers who allege the search was illegal.

Vision of the incident shows a middle-aged Aboriginal man standing handcuffed and in only his underwear outside shops in the Sydney suburb of Glebe, in full view of members of the public. 

Two plain-clothed NSW police officers, one male and the other female, are seen interacting with the man, with the male officer manhandling him, running his hand under the elastic of his underwear and pulling the man's leg from under him so he falls to the ground.

The incident occurred about 2.50pm on 8 January on Glebe Point Road. 

In a statement to Te Kāea, a police spokesperson says the 50-year-old man was stopped by officers due to his 'suspicious behaviour' and was responsible for removing his own clothes.

"The man became agitated when officers informed him he would be subject to a general search (not a strip search).

"When the man became hostile towards officers he was handcuffed due to safety concerns; despite being handcuffed he then began removing his clothing."

After insisting the handcuffs be removed because he wasn't under arrest, the Aboriginal man addressed the officers, “This is the way you’ve treated black fellas for hundreds of years.

“For years, you’ve been treating my people like this. This is genocide, mate.”

Paul Gregoire of Sydney Criminal Lawyers says concerns have been raised about the increased use of strip searches by NSW police and growing allegations that officers are abusing their powers.

He says in the Aboriginal elder's case, "This scene appears to be a clear breach of police strip search powers."

"A search must be carried out in a “private area”, not a public street...He clearly breached the requirements of the law once again by running his fingers around the inside of the elastic of the man’s underwear...as a strip search cannot involve 'an examination of the body by touch'. 

"Strip searches must never be carried out by [a] member of the opposite sex, and one of the officers was a woman."

Police released the man and issued him with a move-on direction.