New York pays $50m over strip-search claim

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The Independent US

The city of New York has agreed to pay up to $50m (£34m) to tens of thousands of citizens who were illegally strip-searched after being arrested for minor offences.

The city of New York has agreed to pay up to $50m (£34m) to tens of thousands of citizens who were illegally strip-searched after being arrested for minor offences.

The searches were conducted by prison officers as part of the Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's crackdown on "quality of life violations" in Manhattan and Queens in 1996 and 1997.

Many of the victims of the illegal searches were first-time offenders who were arrested for minor crimes such as loitering, disorderly conduct or offences on the city's subway.

The $50m class action settlement could be paid out to more than 50,000 people who were arrested during the 10-month period. The lawsuit recounts several cases of men and women with no arrest record who said they felt humiliated by their ordeal.

The settlement would be the largest in a civil rights suit against New York City, lawyers said, and appears to be one of the largest against a municipality anywhere. The minimum award will be $250, the maximum $22,500, although individual plaintiffs can appeal if they think they deserve a higher award based on their emotional suffering.

The city's Department of Correction said that it adopted the policy of strip-searching all people arrested on minor charges "for security purposes". But a federal appeals court ruled in 1986 that the Fourth Amendment barred strip- searches of people charged with misdemeanours or other minor offences unless there was reasonable suspicion that weapons or contraband were concealed.

Richard D Emery, the lead lawyer for the plaintiffs, said: "This is a precedent-setting settlement because it recognises the degrading and dehumanising aspects of a strip- search, and attempts to mould compensation to the individual circumstances of each victim of the city's ill-conceived policy."

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