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Picture the bucolic scene: 4 year Sienna Marengo and her sister India, 10, picking daffodils in Whitecliffe Park, Dorset. Picture too Councillor Peter Adams, driving past and seeing the girls at play. Picture him phoning the police. Picture the police, taking the call and sending an officer over. Picture that officer talking to the parents of the girls for fully 20 minutes and warning them that they could be arrested and face charges of criminal damage.

It seems unlikely doesn't it? And yet that is what happened on this late-winter's day.
As ever, there are two sides to the story. To the girls' parents, this was a frightening, intimidating and heavy-handed encounter with officialdom, prying into the joyful playtime of their children. To the councillor, the picture was somewhat different:

"We are very proud of our parks and can't have people ripping up public property. I am a reasonable person and would not have called the police if they were just picking two or three flowers, but this was totally disgraceful."

It is certainly clear that the boundaries we might accept in terms of children's behaviour vary wildly from person to person – but it is noticeable that the parents haven't denied that the charge that their kids were taking more than 2 or 3 flowers. Either way, reports that the girl is too upset to return to the council-owned park in case her family "would be taken away by the police" shouldn't fill anyone with gladness.


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