An Australian woman was forcibly strip-searched by both male and female police officers and then paraded naked around the police station, it has been revealed.

Joanne Martin had tried to to help her boyfriend during a fight with a group of people in Northbridge in Western Australia, when she was arrested by the police for disorderly behaviour.

Despite the fact that she had already been punched, shoved to the ground and had her hair pulled while trying to prevent her boyfriend being injured in the fight, the worst was yet to come.

Despite seemingly not having a valid reason to conduct the strip-search, she was dropped to the ground and punched with ‘distraction strikes’ to her arm and ‘hammer fist’ blows to her shoulder blades, prompting her to cry out during the forced search.

An investigation by the Corruption and Crime Commission (CCC) into the April 2013 incident, Ms Martin was unhappy at having been arrested as she considered herself an assault victim but was generally cooperative.

She was asked to remove her jewellery during a strip search but could not take off a gold ring. She took off her dress but refused to remove her bra and underwear, saying it was ‘a violation’.

Strip searches can only be conducted by officers of the same sex, although on this occasion she was also forced to strip in front of male officers.

It was then that things turned violent, and officers even broke her finger while trying to take the ring that she had struggled to remove from her finger.

She later required the insertion of a rod into the broken finger.

Afterwards, officers decided to humiliate her further by marching her through the reception area naked and relocating her to a padded cell.

The reception supervisor later told the CCC it was “rare” for a detainee’s clothes not to be immediately returned after a forcible strip search.

The CCC said some of the police officers engaged in serious misconduct and “reviewable action”, but it would be up to Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan to decide whether criminal or disciplinary action should be taken.

However, due to the lack of enforcement powers by the CCC, it looks unlikely that any such action will be taken as Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan said that officers did not deviate from their training.

He also disagreed with the CCC’s assertion that there was no reason to strip search the woman. He also made a comment about the woman being “fairly large”.

A representative for the CCC, said: “Ms Martin’s treatment should not be viewed as normal and is not acceptable. The case is the result of institutionalised failure by the WA Police and the failure of its chains of command to ensure that the law, various regulations, policies and procedures are correctly applied.”
The CCC warned that if the correct procedures aren or followed, then matters ‘could spiral’.

Unfortunately events like these are far from isolated cases, and have been documented all over the US, UK and Canada.

Among the most serious case was that of a Florida family in which a 15 year old girl and her mother were forced to strip naked on the streets and submit to a cavity search by police officers. Officers then raided the house of the relatives that the family were visiting whilst shouting racial slurs.

In Indiana, male and female cops forcibly strip-searched Tabitha Storms Gentry, pepper sprayed her and then made her walk in front of inmates completely naked.

A separate case saw a UK woman win £37,000 compensation after being forcibly strip-searched by five male police officers, leading the woman to fear she was being raped.

Earlier this year, a family bought a lawsuit against Merseyside Police after they forcibly strip-searched their 14 year old daughter.

Figures by the Children’s Rights Alliance for England (CRAE) revealed that strip-searching of children doubled between 2008 and 2013.

The youngest suspect was 12. In 45% of cases, no parent or appropriate adult were present when they had some or all of their clothing removed.

Figures obtained by the Guardian through freedom of information requests last year revealed that 4,638 children aged between 10 and 16 were strip-searched during that period. Over a third were subsequently released without charge.
Suspects are required to remove some or all of their clothing and can be asked to bend over and spread their legs.
A Cheshire woman, Stephanie Rutter, 25, sued the police after they strip-searched her and beat her up in 2010. She later had all charges against her dropped.

These are just some of the cases involving severe brutality and humiliation at the hands of those entrusted to ‘protect and serve’.

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