High-profile prisoners take Corrections to court over 'unlawful' strip search

Some of the country's most notorious inmates are taking the Department of Corrections to court over a mass strip search which they say was unlawful.

Arthur Taylor and Phillip John Smith have described the experience in October 2016 as degrading, and they're seeking an apology and compensation.

The mass strip search at the Auckland Prison at Paremoremo involved 209 prisoners, including Smith, who was convicted in 1996 of murdering the father of a boy he'd molested.

"Being required to lift my penis and testicles and expose my rectum was the most humiliating aspect of the search for me," he told the High Court in Auckland on Monday.

"I felt belittled and dehumanised. "

Another inmate, Taylor, says he felt like he'd been taken advantage of.

"'Screw you, we don't give a stuff about your rights, you don't have any power'," he told the court. "'We can do whatever the hell we like with you'."

Smith and Taylor say the strip search was retaliation for a vicious assault at the prison in October 2016. That incident left six guards injured, three with stab wounds.

They also say the Department of Corrections has a responsibility to rehabilitate prisoners and lead by example.

"It's very important the Department of Corrections instils in them respect of their rights, leading on them respecting everyone else's rights."

The law says strip searches are only allowed where there is reasonable grounds. Peter Gunn, lawyer for the Department of Corrections, says those grounds were met.

"The Department's case again is that other methods of searching were considered insufficient," he told the court.

Weapons were made from television sets in the cells and a shank was also found. The defence was asked why they hadn't just used a metal detector for the search, to which Mr Gunn said weapons can be made out of non-metal material.

"A metal scanning device is not necessarily a means of detecting all weapons."

If the complaint is upheld and all 209 inmates who were strip-searched are awarded $600 in compensation each, the Department of Corrections could face a bill of more than $100,000.

The hearing continues tomorrow. 


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