Strip Searching – What Are Your Rights?

Stand your ground when the door policy seems bizarrely strict
April 08, 2022
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strip searching
© Boontoom Sae-Kor / Shutterstock

It might have been a superficial pocket pat, the cringe scene where the bouncer asks you to take your shoes off, or a prison-like strip-searching – we all witnessed how wild club door policies can get. 

Since the nightlife scene is sprinkled with drug overdoses and drink spiking, the rationalism behind clubs’ search policy is pretty self-explanatory. But there is a fine line between being rational and being physically invasive. 

Just because clubs sometimes brush against the law doesn’t mean that revelers should be stripped of their fundamental clubbing rights. 

Preventive checks vs. strip searching

Two years ago, the story of Child Q and the traumatic search she endured at the hands of those who were supposed to protect her pointed out how authorities abuse their legal power while carrying out safety checks.

Although the 15-year old schoolgirl was menstruating, she was forced to remove her sanitary towel, spread her legs, and cough after being wrongfully accused of smelling like cannabis.

Sadly, we needed a secondary school pupil getting pulled out of her exam and strip-searched by four Metropolitan Police officers to learn how preventive search measures can easily shift into an act of complete violation. 

And the clubbing scene is no stranger to invasive searches. In today’s litigious world, your party animal persona should be a pro at spotting the scenario where the security staff is unlawfully overstepping the mark. 

It is more of a not-so-rhetorical “Is that even legal?” question

We have all been there – looking in dismay at the clubs’ gatekeepers while they carefully took out every card out of your wallet. The reason is obvious – to confirm that even the tiniest pocket is drug-free. But the dumbfounded look painted on our faces isn’t induced by the instant recollection of a long-forgotten baggie in between our cardholder’s pockets.

what is strip searching
© @eggnightclub  / Facebook

It is more of a not-so-rhetorical “Is that even legal?” question. 

All of the parties and clubbing sessions you attend fall in the private events category – which naturally drags a set of rules you agree on whenever you buy a ticket.

In legal terms, the venue is a privately-owned building where admission is dependent on the clubber’s ability to adhere to the imposed rules and regulations. 

It is acceptable until it is not

As part of their bid to make the nightclub safe and sound, door supervisors perform searches on whoever wishes to set foot inside. And by purchasing a ticket, you pretty much say you are okay with it. Now you know what lies beyond the “I agree to terms” checkbox you reflexively tick without reading. 

But there should always be boundaries – purchasing a ticket is not equal to giving the green light for a prison-like search. While bouncers have the right and duty to check anyone entering their premises as part of the SIA license, the process must be conducted by searchers of both sexes decently and respectfully.

As a matter of fact, bouncers have no legal power to perform a strip search

In other words, lawful checks are limited to bags, coats, pockets, and shoes. Whatever passes this mark slips into strip-searching, a safety check that bouncers have no legal power to practice.

The only authority that can ask you to take your top off without your consent is the police. And even then, strip-searching cannot be conducted just like that. It is far from being the superficial stop-and-search procedure because a) the police officers need a solid reason to perform the search, and b) it must take place in a private space, like the police station. 

is strip searching legal
The security staff has a duty of make the clubbers feel safe, not uneasy | © iSOMBOON / Shutterstock

Your clubber rights got your back

As you can tell by those preliminary requirements, it is not easy peasy lemon squeezy to perform an authorized strip search. This is why it should be a last resort alternative. So don’t get fooled by the “Why are you refusing the search if you don’t have anything to hide” cheap cliché bouncers might throw at you. 

As a fellow clubber, you have the right to not be groped by the bouncer. You have the legal right to say no. It doesn’t matter if the strip search is performed by someone of your sex. Nor does it matter if it takes place in a private space. 

It is a wildly illegal invasion of privacy you can trenchantly decline. As a matter of fact, if the security staff searches inside your clothes or underwear without your permission, they can be charged with assault. If it is not a police officer performing the search, you benefit from the untouchable status – as you should.

Stay safe, know your rights card and stand your ground when all signs show that what you are experiencing is more of an invasive search than a safety check.


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