Aboriginal and legal rights groups are urging the Justice Department to further introduce scanning technology rather than carry out full or partial body searches on children when they enter custody in Tasmania.
Figures obtained by The Examiner show 102 children - including three aged 13 and 26 aged 14 - were strip searched at either the Launceston or Hobart police stations between January 1 and May 26, 2019, before new risk assessment guidelines were introduced.
After that, a further 71 children were strip searched by the end of the year, while 105 underwent pat downs.
Aboriginal children continued to be vastly over-represented in the strip searching figures, making up 27 per cent of children before the changes and 25 per cent after. Aboriginal Tasmanians were 4.6 per cent of the total population in the latest Census.
The new guidelines from May 27 included the assessment of youth as low, moderate or high risk of harm to themselves or others to determine what level of search was required, rather than a mandatory strip search.
The guidelines were introduced three weeks after the state's Commissioner for Children and Young People released a report recommending the end of mandatory strip searching of children in custody and calling for the introduction of legislation to clarify the searching of children, further use of body scanners and a clear criteria to determine what type of search should be conducted.
Only the last issue has been formally implemented, and the remainder largely requires the Parliament to pass legislation.
The Child Abuse Royal Commission also recommended risk assessments or body scanners be implemented to minimise the need for strip searching of children.
Tasmania Prison Services does not keep data on the number of times contraband was found during searches, and passes contraband on to Tasmania Police. Other states and territories report this figure, however.
A spokesperson for the Justice Department said using more technology in personal searches was being considered.
"The Department of Justice is giving consideration to electronic security as part of a broader upgrade of technology, and will continue to explore technologies that may offer an appropriate and effective alternative to personal searches," the spokesperson said.
MORE ON STRIP SEARCHING IN TASMANIA:
"The government is continuing to give consideration to the recommendations of the Commissioner's Memorandum more broadly and the Tasmania Prison Service continues to review its procedures against the recommendations of the Memorandum of Advice to promote the dignity and self-respect of children and young people in the custodial process."
Strip searching, referred to by the department as "full personal search", uses a "half/half" technique in which the child removes either the top or bottom half of their clothing at a time to avoid being fully unclothed. They are required to bend at the waist and part their buttocks cheeks.
A "modified personal search" follows the same technique without the buttocks inspection.
The child is visually inspected, and the clothing is searched piece-by-piece for contraband.
Two correctional officers of the same gender are present, and there is no requirement for the child to have a support person.
Palawa elder Rodney Dillon said it was time that technology replaced the need for strip searching of children.
"They've got the technology that they can use where they don't have to touch kids to search them. The technology is available, they use it in airports and other places, so we'd like to see them get it and use it," he said.
The number of children strip searched in Tasmania in 2018 was 208, including three children aged 11. The overall number of searches increased to 278 in 2019, although the method of searching altered. Of those, 205 were at the Hobart Reception Prison and 73 were at the Launceston Reception Prison, based in the cities' respective police stations.
Human rights groups have long argued that the practice was damaging and degrading to the children involved. The state's Children's Commissioner said it "cannot be justified".
Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania chair Michael Mansell said it instilled a distrust and dislike of police from an early age.
"It's one way of creating a whole new generation of people who hate the police because of their experiences as young people," he said.
"When you've got a generation of people growing up who disrespect the police, then everything is going to lead to problems - even when there is a good reason for police to make contact with an Aboriginal person.
"The only way to sort this out is for the Parliament to legislate to restrict searches to the most exceptional cases. Another thing they should do is force officials to seek a court order under new legislation, rather than just exercise their own discretion."
Tasmanian Prisoners Legal Service chair Greg Barns SC said the introduction of pat down searches was welcome, but there were still too many full body searches occurring.
"We need to remember that often these young people have come from backgrounds where there has been abuse both sexual and non sexual, and invasive procedures can be deeply traumatic," he said.
"What is also extremely alarming, particularly in context of recent international developments, is the fact that the government has made no inroads into reducing Indigenous over-representation in the criminal justice system."