Public humiliation for boy aged 10
"Do not trust me. I will steal from you as I am a thief."
An Australian woman has been accused of child cruelty after she forced her young son to sit in public wearing a sign that read: "Do not trust me. I will steal from you as I am a thief."
Boy forced to wear 'thief' sign by mother
The boy, believed to be aged 10, was forced to wear the sign and a pair of Shrek ears in a busy park in the northern Queensland town of Townsville while his family ate lunch nearby.
The treatment of the child prompted outrage among other families in the park, who accused the woman of publicly humiliating him.
Diane Mayers was so disturbed that she called the child safety hotline.
“"Do not trust me. I will steal from you as I am a thief." ”
"The boy just kept his head down and was staring at the ground," she told the Townsville Bulletin. "The parents had gone to all the trouble of printing two copies of the sign – one for the back and one for the front – and laminating them. A lot of work had gone in to it.
"A lot of people walked past and were laughing at him, including boys who would have been his age."
Ms Mayers said that at one point the boy took off the Shrek ears, but his mother told him: "Put them back on or I'll smack your head in".
However, the boy's mother, who has not been named, has defended her actions, saying they were a last resort intended to shame him into giving up stealing.
"We've had a process over the last three years of him shoplifting and stealing whatever he can get his hands on," she said.
"I have taken him to the police station, had the police officers take him around, shown him a paddy wagon [police van], shown him all the cells, shown him the process of being charged."
Nothing had so far worked, she said, and last week the boy stole some chocolate, prompting her to take drastic action.
"I am hoping he has (learnt his lesson), I don't think he will be game to do it again, I really don't but time will tell, soon as I trust him to go out to a shop," she said.