‘They restrained her and cut her clothes off’
THE arrest and strip search of a teenage Aboriginal girl for a minor offence in the Hobart CBD threatened to undermine relations between the community and police, the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre says.
Tasmania Police have rejected claims the girl was treated unfairly or that her arrest and detention was inappropriate.
TAC spokeswoman Nala Mansell said the girl was arrested for breaching a bail condition by being present in the Hobart CBD three weeks ago.
"They took her into the lockup and told her she had to take her clothes off in front of a group of police who were there," she said.
"When she refused they restrained her and cut her clothes off."
Commissioner for Children and Young People Leanne McLean in May last year called for an end to the routine strip searching of young people in Tasmania.
"As I have made very clear in my public comments on this issue, I believe the practice of routine strip searching of children and young people in custody cannot be justified and should cease" Ms McLean said.
Her comments came after revelations Tasmania Prison Service custodial officers had strip searched 135 minors at the Hobart Reception Prison and 83 at the Launceston Reception Prison in 2018.
Ms Mansell said the girl was traumatised by the original incident - after which she had suffered a seizure. She was arrested again on Wednesday by police and refused bail.
"She was catching a bus home at Franklin square to where she lives in Kingston when the police approached her, started harassing her and asked to search her bag and threw her in the back of a paddy wagon for being in the CBD.
"She has no prior convictions. She's never missed a court date. Myself and family members were ringing the police asking she be given bail.
The girl spent a night in custody before being granted bail by a magistrate on Thursday.
"There was no reason given for why this child couldn't be granted bail and be in the care of her mother," Ms Mansell said.
Tasmania Police Assistant Commissioner Adrian Bodnar said the girl had been arrested for multiple offences.
"A 17-year-old youth was arrested last night for Possess Dangerous Article, Assault Police, Resist Arrest and Contravene a Notice," he said.
"The approval of the detention of the youth to the Hobart Reception Prison was provided by an Inspector of Police in line with policy regarding Aboriginal people and youths in custody."
He said police were not aware of the girl having suffered a seizure during her previous time in detention.
"Regarding the youth's 12 December 2020 arrest and subsequent detention at the Hobart Reception Prison, Tasmania Police is not aware of any such medical episode.
"Police take very seriously their obligations and responsibilities in relation to all people in police custody, including Aboriginal people and youths."
A Department of Justice spokesman said the youth had been subject to a personal search to "ensure the safety of the individual and others."
"The search was conducted in accordance with all applicable Tasmania Prison Service policies and procedures," he said.
"The TPS recognises that juveniles in custody are intrinsically vulnerable and fundamentally different from adults in terms of their emotional, cognitive and physical needs. The TPS makes every effort to minimise the potential negative impact of a search on a young person."
A government spokesman said changes to the law were underway to "minimise any associated trauma, distress or harm in relation to searches conducted of youth in custodial facilities in Tasmania."
"The Tasmanian Government is committed to implementing measures that will ensure the appropriate treatment of children and young people in the custodial process, with draft legislation released for public comment in September 2020."
Originally published as 'They restrained her and cut her clothes off'