Media release

21 October 2021

On 21 and 22 October 2021, the Victorian Court of Appeal is considering whether routinely strip-searching a portion of the prison population violates the human rights of people in prison to privacy and dignity.

Fitzroy Legal Service is representing Dr Craig Minogue in the appeal. Dr Minogue was self represented in Supreme Court proceedings before Justice Richards, who found that the practice of routine strip searching was not authorised by law and was incompatible with Dr Minogue’s rights to privacy and humane treatment while in prison.

The Victorian Government appealed this decision, in a case that is expected to have
significant implications for the practice of strip searching in Victorian prisons and on the obligations imposed on prison authorities by the Charter of Human Rights and
Responsibilities 2006.

Strip searching is dehumanising and degrading. It can also be deeply traumatising, in particular for people with histories of sexual assault and family violence, who make up a significant proportion of people across men and women’s prisons.

The Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service has asked to make submissions in the appeal,
reflecting the over-representation of Aboriginal people in prison and mounting evidence they are disproportionately subjected to strip searching.

Despite being a widespread and routine practice, strip searching is also entirely ineffective in detecting 'contraband', such as drugs, weapons and tobacco. What little published data there is shows that thousands of strip searches might detect just a handful of items, including nicotine gum and blood pressure tablets. There was no evidence before Justice Richards that corrections authorities had considered less invasive alternatives, such as x-ray scanners or breathalyser tests.

This appeal is an incredibly important test of Victoria’s Charter and of the ability of prison authorities to persist with a demonstrably harmful and ineffective practice. It will have significant implications for all people in prison and all Victorians.

Megan Pearce, Managing Lawyer of Social Action and Public Interest Law said:
“Human rights don’t stop at prison gates. It is time to end the routine strip searching of people in prison – it is a cruel and degrading practice that should be banned by law”.

Fitzroy Legal Service will be giving no further comment at this time

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