A woman who punched a police officer in her groin when she was forced to undress at Adelaide’s City Watch House had her conviction quashed in June 2021.
South Australia’s Supreme Court found SAPOL never provided evidence in court that the woman was in lawful custody when she hit the female officer.
The woman was taken into custody at the City Watch House in October 2018 after being arrested for alleged disorderly behaviour while drunk.
She refused to have her photograph taken and, rather than being granted police bail, was instead placed into a holding cell, where two female police officers told her to remove her stockings.
The Adelaide Magistrates Court heard this was a “general standard request” for all items which could be used for self-harm.
She refused to remove her stockings and the officers tried to remove them themselves.
She eventually said she would do it, but wanted to do it in private because she was not wearing anything underneath.
She then punched one of the officers in the groin, the court heard.
The two officers then restrained her and pulled off the stockings.
Police fail to show woman was in lawful custody
The woman’s lawyer told the Adelaide Magistrates Court there was no evidence presented that the defendant was lawfully under arrest and therefore the prosecution could not establish that the officer was “acting in the lawful execution of her duty” when she was hit.
The magistrate rejected the argument and convicted the woman, putting her on a $500 18-month good behaviour bond.
But that conviction was later quashed by Supreme Court Justice Sophie David.
Justice David said that because the woman was not wearing underwear, removing her stockings constituted a “highly intrusive safety search” that was not justified since she had not yet been properly taken into custody.
She said one of the police officers had agreed at trial that there was “no indication, by words or conduct, that she was in fact at risk of harming herself” — the reason given for removing the stockings.
SA Police declined to comment.