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Searches at festivals

  • 05-06-2024 1:09pm
    Registered Users Posts: 276 ✭✭

    I overhead people at the weekend talking about their friends being taken at random for additional, quite invasive searches on the way into a festival.

    I've never thought about what the balance of powers are there.

    Does there need to be a level of suspicion?

    Or is simply entering a music venue enough grounds?

    Or can simply anyone being requested?

    Do you have to consent? Or is it a case of, you either consent or you get taken into custody and searched at the station?

    I'm just curious how it works. Can you be subject to strip searches for simply going to see your favourite artists?



  • Registered Users Posts: 10,567 ✭✭✭✭28064212

    Searching is a condition of entry and you may be searched anywhere on site at any time by security and detection dogs

    ^ Quoted from the T&Cs of Electric Picnic, I'd imagine most other festivals/concerts have similar terms. You can refuse, but you won't be permitted entry. Additionally, if you refuse, and a Garda is present/is told about your refusal, you may have supplied reasonable grounds for a Gardaí search, which can result in an arrest for refusal.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 7,582 ✭✭✭GerardKeating

    I'm just curious how it works. Can you be subject to strip searches for simply going to see your favourite artists?

    Unless someone challenges this in court, it's not going to change.

    Not sure it would rise to the level of a "strip search", that would/could leave them open to "allegations" of some form of assualt.

  • Registered Users Posts: 6,205 ✭✭✭Claw Hammer

    Whay are you worried unless you have something to hide?

  • Registered Users Posts: 9,277 ✭✭✭markpb

    The top of this page says Legal Discussion, not Moral Discussion.

  • Registered Users Posts: 7,582 ✭✭✭GerardKeating

    Even a person with "nothing to hide" should be worried about being strip searched….

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  • Registered Users Posts: 276 ✭✭Jambonjunior

    I mainly curious because

    a) what I heard sounded very invasive given it was random, and not based on any suspicion, other than attending an event

    b) I realised I had never considered what rights a person or a Garda has in that situation.

  • Registered Users Posts: 26,334 ✭✭✭✭Peregrinus

    Basically this is a private contractual arrangement. An event organiser doesn't have to admit you to the event, except on terms that you and he agree on. The admission ticket is a contract; you agree to the contract terms offered when you buy the ticket or you don't agree, don't buy a ticket and don't attend the event.

    There are some constraints on that — he couldn't include a racial bar, for example, in the ticket conditions, in violation of the Equal Status Act. Or he couldn't include a term that entitled him to conduct the event in an unsafe venue, and said that he would have no liablity to you for any injury that you suffered because of that unsafety. But if you want to argue that the contract for admission can't include a term by which you agree to be searched for contraband, you'd need to point to some rule of law that makes such a contract term illegal.

  • Registered Users Posts: 6,205 ✭✭✭Claw Hammer

  • Registered Users Posts: 20,684 ✭✭✭✭yourdeadwright

    As Jose Mourhino once said "Only thieves can complain about  security cameras "

  • Registered Users Posts: 276 ✭✭Jambonjunior

    Would you want a security camera in your bathroom?

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  • Registered Users Posts: 5,022 ✭✭✭Irish Aris

    Now I'm a bit intrigued on what an "invasive search" is.

    Is there anything else that you can share, OP?

    From my own experience, I think the "pat downs" at 3Arena have become a bit more thorough.

    Summer/open air festivals tend to have more thorough searches, mostly trying to catch people bringing their own alcohol in.

  • Registered Users Posts: 276 ✭✭Jambonjunior

    I didn't witness it but it was meant to have been far more thorough than a simple pat down. People were taken aside for a high level search.

    I could understand if there was actual suspicion, but it was said to be at random, and many of the people were young women.

    I went to a festival years ago in Cork, and Guards pulled over the public bus that was going to the venue. We were on the side of the road for over an hour, and missed some of the event. They went through all of the bags on the bus. I was bemused at the level of scrutiny, and a Guard thought I looked sheepish so pulled me aside to go through all of my pockets. I had nothing to hide, but it still felt very intrusive. It's not the level or attitude of policing that we have usually in Ireland.

    I feel like, it's a level of intrusion that wouldn't happen to a crowd going to a leinster rugby match. But, it's fine for young people going to a music event.

  • Registered Users Posts: 5,022 ✭✭✭Irish Aris

    Got you.

    Yes, sounds a bit unusual. Haven't encountered anything like this, random additional searches.

    Mind you I'm a bit older so in the gigs I normally attend the main thing is checking bags, to the point of even emptying them, especially if it is bag-packs size.

  • Registered Users Posts: 18,957 ✭✭✭✭Del2005

    I feel like, it's a level of intrusion that wouldn't happen to a crowd going to a leinster rugby match. But, it's fine for young people going to a music event.

    People would have bigger quantities of drugs for a festival than going to a match.

  • Registered Users Posts: 183 ✭✭Frumy

    I hate when people say this nothing to hide nonsense.

    @Claw Hammer If you have nothing to hide may I ask why do you wear clothes?

    Why do you have a door into your bathroom why isn't it open?

    Why do you have blinds on your windows?

    Everyone has something to some degree to hide even you! Whatever it is I'm hiding well it's none of your business.

  • Registered Users Posts: 6,205 ✭✭✭Claw Hammer

    Have you ever seen me wear clothes?
    Have your ever seen me go into a bathroom and close a door?

    Have you ever seen blinds on my windows. If people have things to hide they shouldn't be going to places where they will be checked if they don't want their secrets unveiled.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,107 ✭✭✭Stephen_Maturin

    What’s your address please Claw Hammer?

    We can look into getting a boards webcam installed in your bedroom, you won’t mind of course, no doubt there’s nothing illegal going on in your bedroom

  • Registered Users Posts: 183 ✭✭Frumy

    Have I ever seen you wear clothes? Well I don't know who you are but If I was a gambling man I'd bet you wear clothes 7 days a week you don't strike me as a nudist voyeur type who goes around naked all day everyday. Would I be right? You do actually wear clothes?

    Thus proving you yourself have something to hide.

    The people that go on with this 'well if you have nothing to hide nonsense' all have something to hide themselves. Their privacy!

    'If people have things to hide they shouldn't be going to places where they will be checked if they don't want their secrets unveiled'

    What has your personal secrets got to do with a random security man at a music festival? I find it ever so bizarre that people have no respect at all for their own privacy and want total random strangers at music festivals knowing their 'secrets' Strange to me that.

  • Registered Users Posts: 276 ✭✭Jambonjunior

  • Administrators, Entertainment Moderators, Social & Fun Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 18,722 Admin ✭✭✭✭✭hullaballoo

    It's definitely more complex than simply saying "it's a condition for entry to the festival that you consent to being searched" since consent isn't a defence to assault in many circumstances. In Ireland, there is a balancing of conflicting rights under the constitution. When I was a law student, it would have been clearly the case that an invasive search would be an unconstitutional interference with your personal rights and likely indefensible on the basis of consent, had it ever been tested.

    The legal landscape has shifted a lot in the intervening 15 years - somewhat unsurprisingly, since we the people have elected successive authoritarian governments - so that now it seems to me that it is more likely an invasive search would be seen as proportionate to the risk that someone could injure themselves or others with a small quantity of recreational drugs.

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  • Subscribers Posts: 41,356 ✭✭✭✭sydthebeat

    I feel like, it's a level of intrusion that wouldn't happen to a crowd going to a leinster rugby match.

    the last leinster rugby match i went to every single bag was searched, any bag over A4 size was seized and confiscated, and every supporter had to empty pockets and go through a metal detector machine.

    different events have different levels of security associated with them, and as a result have different problems for the event runners. Certain music festivals would attract a certain amount of illegal activity such as drug taking, so the security element has to be levelled to equal the threat. A typical 2hr leinster URC game holds very low threat of illegal activity, yet bags are regularly searched in the RDS and Aviva.

    A Guard asking you to empty your pockets should be a reasonable expectation at a music festival

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,551 ✭✭✭RoboRat

    They need to qualify what a 'search' entails as their T&Cs are quite loose. There is a big difference between a pat down, emptying your pockets, or running over with a wand versus a strip search or intensive/ invasive body search.

    People go to concerts to enjoy themselves and should be able to make an educated decision about what they should expect, and if they are willing to accept it. Finding out at the gate/ entry point is a bit late when you have shelled out €€€ for tickets.

  • Registered Users Posts: 50 ✭✭shimadzu

    Went to three big gigs last year, two in Marley Park and one in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham.

    Marley Park had a large security setup with metal detectors, pat downs, bag and pocket searches which resulted in very slow moving ques.

    At the Kilmainham you emptied your pockets into a clear plastic bag and turned your pockets out then you got a light pat down from a security guard and you were on your way ques moved very quickly.

    Plenty of drugs got through at both venues.

    There were two lads in front of me at Kilmainham and they were a pain the whole time while queuing, when they got to the pat down they had not emptied their pockets and gave the security guard a bit of grief. When the security guard was patting him down he said I don't know why you are searching there the drugs are up my bum it wasn't long before two gardai with a dog were leading him away from the que.

  • Registered Users Posts: 26,334 ✭✭✭✭Peregrinus

    I think if you turned up and declined to be searched and they searched you anyway, that would be an assault, despite the terms and conditions of the ticket contract. But that's not what happens; if you decline to be searched they refuse you admission (or, if you're already in, they escort you out) and they refuse to refund your ticket price on the grounds that it is you, not they, who has breached the terms of the contract. So I don't think there's any basis on which you could complain of assault.

  • Registered Users Posts: 10,567 ✭✭✭✭28064212

    Morally, I agree. Legally: different question. Unless a politician takes it on as a cause célèbre to get a specific law enacted against it (unlikely), or someone who has been subjected to it takes a legal case, nothing is going to change

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  • Registered Users Posts: 9,277 ✭✭✭markpb

    If invasive searches (anything other than a pat down for concerts/matches), were commonplace, would it be an abuse of the imbalance of power by the party drawing up the contract? The only way to attend the event would be to allow someone to do what would, in other situations, be deemed sexual assault.

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,551 ✭✭✭RoboRat

    I don't think there needs to be a legal case, it just requires promoters/ organisers to be upfront about what to expect.

    As I said, it's a bit late for them to tell you after you have purchased your ticket, travelled to the event, and possibly organised accommodation. They have your money so they don't care what you think at that point.

    Maybe if they said that you could be strip searched or intensively searched, they might deter people from bringing drugs/weapons. It would also mean that people know what they're getting themselves into before they decide to attend. It would probably negatively affect sales, so I'm guessing that's why they keep it vague.

  • Registered Users Posts: 26,334 ✭✭✭✭Peregrinus

    Not being much of a festival-goer myself, I don't know how invasive the invasive searches are, in practice, or how often they are conducted, or on what basis patrons are selected for an invasive search. But let's assume that someone is required to undergo a very invasive search, and they feel so uncomfortable about that that they refuse, and as a result they are excluded from the event, with no refund of the ticket price. Do they have a remedy?

    I think they're looking to rely on the European Communities (Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts) Regulations 1995, which deal with consumer contracts that are not individually negotiated. That definitely covers the terms and conditions of a ticket to attend a commercial performance. Under reg. 6, an "unfair term" in such a contract is not binding on the consumer. So the question is, is the term by which the patron consents to be searched, or must consent if asked, an "unfair term"?

    By reg. 3(2), a contract term is unfair . . .

    ". . . if, contrary to the requirement of good faith, it causes a significant imbalance in the parties' rights and obligations under the contract to the detriment of the consumer, taking into account the nature of the goods or services for which the contract was concluded . . ."

    (There's more, but that's the guts of it.)

    There's an indicative list of terms which may be regarded as unfair in Sch 3 to the regulations. It covers terms which do things like:

    • limiting the liablity of the service provider in the event of death or injury
    • making the agreement binding on the consumer while leaving the supplier free to honour it or not, as he alone wishes
    • making a deposit non-refundable when the consumer cancels but providing no compensation when the supplier cancels
    • automatically extending a fixed-term contract unless the consumer actively cancels it
    • irrevocably binding the consumer to terms with which they had no real opportunity of becoming acquainted before entering into the contract

    Etc, etc. Conspicously missing here is anything to do with the substance of the contract itself. If you and I contract for the sale of a clapped-out wreck of a car at a price which vastly exceeds its true value, one of us is probably ripping off the other but there's nothing "unfair" about that as long as we both understand the terms of the deal in advance.

    So, the term consenting to searches: it seems to me that there's two ways you could argue that it's not binding.

    First, I didn't know about, and couldn't reasonably have found out about, this term before I bought the ticket. That's a question of fact — were the terms and conditions avaialable on the website on which I bought the ticket? And the answer is usually going to be "yes"; for obvious reasons, it's very much in the interests of suppliers to ensure that the contract terms are available, so they usually do. To be blunt, they rely on you not reading the T&Cs much more than they rely on you not being able to read them. So this one is probably not going to succeed very often.

    Secondly, the term causes a "significant imbalance in the parties' rights and obligations" — the supplier can strip-search the consumer but the consumer can't strip-search the supplier — and this is "contrary to the requirement of good faith". (Note that an imbalance in rights and obligations isn't unfair unless it's contrary to good faith.) The supplier is going to argue that the search requirement is, or at least may be, onerous, but that it's reasonable in a context where illicit drugs are known to circulate and to be consumed at festivals, etc, and people have suffered injury and even death as a result. Plus, he has a duty of care to festival-goers. Plus, he typically needs various licences and approvals to conduct events, and getting these may involve an assessment by the licensing authorities of what he does or can do to mitigate this risk. All of this, he will argue, means that it's not contrary to good faith for him to include in his contract terms provisions which enable him to seek to control the introduction of drugs into the event venue by requiring patrons to agree to searches as a condition of entry.

    I think if there ever is a challenge, a huge amount is going to depend on the actual facts of the case. The questions looked at will not be about what generally happens at festivals, but what happened on this occasion, at this festival, with respect to this particular patron? What kind of search, in fact, were they invited to accept — a bag search, a pat-down, or an intimate cavity search? Was there privacy, or was it to be public? Was the search to be conducted by security staff of the appropriate gender? On what basis was the patron selected for search? Etc, etc.

  • Administrators, Entertainment Moderators, Social & Fun Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 18,722 Admin ✭✭✭✭✭hullaballoo

    @Peregrinus I agree with your analysis from a contracts perspective but I think it's too narrow. The way I would look at this is in terms of it's more general lawfulness or in this case imo, it's unlawfulness.

    I think the power to conduct invasive searches must be limited to very few persons authorised to carry them out by statute. This is particularly so given that as authoritarian powers go, it is particularly ripe for abuse. I would say the power to search alone, never mind invasively, is an affront to personal liberty and in this case bodily integrity, and can only be sanctioned in circumstances where there are balancing constitutional grounds. It is not a question of interpreting the contractual fairness. The power to search should be limited to police (and the likes of airport security and border agents) and even then, only on clear grounds. (In fact and in law, I think this is the case.)

    The question here for me isn't whether the festival organisers can refuse entry on the basis that a would-be festival-goer refuses to submit to a(n invasive) search. It's a question of whether the search can be lawful even if the festival-goer does submit to it. In my opinion, it isn't a lawful search even with consent, it's an unconstitutional interference with a person, aggravated by the imbalance of power between the two. It's also probably a tort for which the festival-goer could sue.

    Then the question becomes whether there is a defence to a suit based in tort or on the constitution, probably both. I think it is here that the law has shifted in the past 15 years. I would not have hesitated in the past to say this is a winnable action with a limited defence on the basis that "you knew what you were signing up for". That, to me, is a nonsense because if you take it further but not that much further, could the festival organisers require people to submit to blood tests? Could the organisers require people to submit to another form of interference with bodily integrity? Sexual contact?

    It is a different legal landscape now, where the personal protections provided by the constitution are now not so prominent, if they even still exist. So, there is now more of a chance that the festival-goers have to put up and shut up if they want to attend these events.

    Maybe it isn't a bad thing, maybe there are good policy reasons for allowing some yellow jacket clad oafs lose the run of themselves searching a bunch of teenagers and 20-somethings but, for me, it seems a bit too invasive a way to ward against a minor to moderate risk of harm from recreational drug use.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 26,334 ✭✭✭✭Peregrinus

    Look, I see where you're coming from, and it redoubles my view that, in an actual challenge, a huge amount would depend on the exact facts. If you want to run this case, wait until someone is required to undergo a cavity search; don't run it when someone is just patted down, or required to turn out their pockets.

    Even then, I think it's a novel argument. You are essentially arguing that a person cannot waive certain constitutional rights. There are inalienable and imprescriptible rights, but the personal rights are not among them, and these searches involve bodily contact of a kind that, in other contexts, people do consent to, sometimes enthusiastically. Is this consent irrelevant in all cases, or just in some?

    Consider the implications of this. A contract of prostitution was not, until relatively recently, prohibited in Ireland. A sex worker consents to sexual contact in exchange for money and, in many cases, does so in circumstances of considerable economic stress — they are often under much greater pressure to enter into the transaction than a concert-goer is under to attend a concert. Is the implication of your argument that the sex worker's consent to this contact is irrelevant, and that the transaction is a violation of their constitutional rights for which they can obtain a remedy?

    Powers of forcible search are rightly limited by law, but that doesn't mean people can't validly consent or agree to the kind of contact that a search involves even circumstances where no power for forcible search applies. If they couldn't consent to that kind of contact, a lot more than searches would be affected.