A NSW schoolgirl has admitted to deliberately planting a needle in a strawberry as the fruit contamination crisis continues to plague the country.
The Daily Telegraph reports the Blue Mountains girl, 12, told her friends she had found a needle in her strawberry at school. Police we called after a fellow student reported it to a teacher.
The young girl was interviewed by police at her home, where she claimed she didn’t know how the needle came to be in her strawberry.
Only after police left did she confess the truth to her parents, who called police back to their home to talk to the girl again.
She will reportedly be dealt with under the youth cautioning system, a formal out-of-court process that’s typically used as an alternative to prosecution for young offenders.
It comes a day after NSW Police made their first arrest in relation to the fruit contamination scandal. Police confirmed that a boy had handed himself in to officers, having admitted to putting needles in strawberries “as a prank”.
NSW Acting Assistant Commissioner Stuart Smith confirmed the unidentified boy’s arrest, who will also be dealt with under the youth cautioning system.
The contamination crisis has spread to the very heart of the nation and devastated strawberry farmers in Queensland, who have been forced to dump truck-loads of produce in the wake of the scandal.
On Wednesday, Scott Morrison declared harsher punishments for anyone found to be involved in the sabotage, including copycat crimes.
He described those involved so far as “cowards” and “grubs” and said new laws would target the reckless behaviour.
“Some idiot, for his own reasons, or her own reasons, has engaged in an act of sabotage, it would seem, that has put all of that at risk for these people just out there having a go,” he said. “And not only that, mums and dads and their kids have been put in the position of having a real concerns and, indeed, fears. It’s not on.”
Morrison increased the prison penalty from 10 to 15 years for anyone engaging in sabotage similar to the strawberry scandal. In addition, anyone who claims fruit contamination as a hoax, even if they are joking around on social media, could face a decade behind bars. He said the government was taking the issue as seriously as terrorism or fighting child pornography.
Meanwhile, an additional $1 million relief package was also announced by Federal Minister for Regional Services Bridget McKenzie on Wednesday. The funds will help assist farmers, promote Queensland strawberries and investigate gaps in the supply chain. It follows Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt’s order of a federal investigation into the matter.
Australians are being encouraged to support farmers by purchasing strawberries and carefully cutting them before eating to ensure they’re safe.