Key Words: Assault – battery – false imprisonment – Law Enforcement (Police Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002 Section 99 – Mardis Gras – sniffer dogs – settlement
GL was standing in line at a Mardi Gras event when a police sniffer dog stopped beside him. Police took GL aside to a “private” fenced off tent, where they commenced a full strip search. However, there was a gap in the tent and GL was exposed to the view of people outside of the tent.
GL sued police for assault, battery and false imprisonment. The Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002 (LEPRA) states that, as far as is reasonably necessary, a strip search must not be conducted in the view of a person whose presence is not necessary for the search. The argument was made that once this requirement is broken – as it was in GL’s case – the strip search becomes unlawful. Any touching or apprehended touching of a person’s body during an unlawful search will be a battery or assault.
A further argument was made on the basis that reasonable suspicion is required by LEPRA before police can make an arrest. The argument was that police cannot form this reasonable suspicion based on the actions of a sniffer dog. An arrest carried out without reasonable suspicion will constitution a false imprisonment.
Police settled with GL.