Proposed changes to Tasmania's laws guiding the strip searching of children entering custody still leave too much discretion to officers conducting the searches, the Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania has claimed.
Public comment on the law changes closed last month.
They propose to only have the searches - which are full cavity - occur when there are "reasonable grounds" that it's necessary to obtain evidence, ensure security of the custodial facility, the safety of the child or reveal concealed drugs or weapons.
But one clause, which includes the removal "into safe keeping of any articles belonging to, or in possession of, the youth", caused particular concern for the ALCT.
Chair Michael Mansell said it meant that a child could be strip searched if they refused to hand over any item, regardless of whether it was dangerous or not.
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"That could be something as simple as chocolate - the officer is entitled to strip search the child to get it. It's entirely in their discretion," he said.
"These changes are very, very weak. Effectively, it's business as usual when it comes to strip searching children in Tasmania."
The draft laws were devised in response to a report by the Commissioner for Children and Young People, who recommended legislation to give "clear criteria" to guide when the searches should be undertaken.
This included that the searches should only be conducted "when reasonable, necessary and proportionate".
Other recommendations had already been implemented which stopped the searches from being mandatory when children enter custody. These reduced the number of full body searches by half during 2019.
Mr Mansell said it was unacceptable that the practice occurred at all.
"The legal right of strangers to physically interfere with children, especially where they are in their lawful custody, must be severely restricted," he wrote in his submissions to the laws.
"The proposed changes do no such thing: they continue to incorporate the use of vague phrases such as the 'least intrusive', 'discretionary powers', 'not specially authorised', 'reasonable privacy' and 'reasonable grounds'."
Children's Commissioner, legal group want greater oversight
In her submission, Commissioner for Children and Young People, Leanne McLean, was supportive of the law changes, but wanted greater oversight added.
"As there is no guide to decision-making or hierarchy of searches included in the proposed amendments, it is my view that a self-authorising framework is not consistent with my advice," she wrote.
"Further ... a decision to use force should in my opinion require authorisation from a senior officer."
Ms McLean wrote that the laws were "generally consistent" with the recommendations made in her report.
Community Legal Centres Tasmania also believed the use of force should be prohibited "to circumstances of last resort".
In his submission, CLC Tasmania policy officer Ben Bartl said a register should be established to keep track on how much the practice is used.
"The failure to publicisise the circumstances in which searches may take place is likely to result in an inconsistency of practice across custodial settings and therefore more likely to lead to misuse of search powers," he wrote.
The government did not respond to a request for comment by deadline on the draft legislation, including when it would be brought before Parliament.