Legislation aimed at minimising the use of strip searching on children when entering custody is planned to be released for consultation later this year, the Tasmanian Government has confirmed.
Amendments to the Youth Justice Act would be required in order to implement all nine recommendations from a report by the state's Commissioner for Children and Young People in May last year, which found the use of strip searching on children "cannot be justified".
Since the report, new guidelines have been put in place that ended the mandatory use of strip searching, reducing the number of children going through the procedure by 35 per cent from July to February, with the remainder having pat downs.
Strip searching occurs when in custody of Tasmania Prison Service, not Tasmania Police.
Children's Commissioner Leanne McLean said the government had agreed in principle to six of her recommendations, and the remaining three required legislative changes.
She said introducing new technology into reception prisons would allow for body scans, rather than relying on strip searches to detect contraband.
"If you think about how we travel through an airport, particularly international airports, similar principles apply to make sure no one is carrying anything that can harm people, but in airports we don't conduct routine strip searches," Ms McLean said.
"We have a range of scanning technology available and we need to explore those more fully."
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She said the consultation process on legislative changes should include the views of children and young people before it was ready to be taken to Parliament.
"One thing that really staggered me with this issue was the complexity of the legislation around searches. Depending on where you find yourself as a child - whether in youth detention, police custody, at a reception prison - the rules around searching you were different," Ms McLean said.
"One of the recommendations was to bring it all together in one place and make it best practice."
Figures obtained by The Examinershowed that, after pat downs were introduced on May 27 last year, just over 40 per cent of children underwent a strip search in some capacity upon entering custody at either the Launceston or Hobart reception prisons. The youngest child to undergo the procedure was 12.
A spokesperson for the Department of Justice confirmed that legislative changes were being developed.
"The Tasmanian Government will consult on draft legislation later this year which will address the recommendations by the Children's Commissioner," the spokesperson said.
"We remain committed to implementing any measures that will ensure the dignity and self-respect of children and young people in the custodial process."