Shock and anger as charges dropped over strawberry needles

Jul 14, 2021
Strawberry farmers across Queensland were devastated when needles were found in the fruit in supermarkets across the state. Source: Getty

Australians have taken to social media to share their outrage Wednesday afternoon, after it was announced that the woman allegedly behind the 2018 strawberry needle saga has had all charges dropped against her.

The woman, My Ut Trinh, who was a farm supervisor at Berrylicious farm in her hometown of Caboolture, fronted Queensland District Court on Wednesday facing eight counts of contamination of goods with intent to cause economic loss. Trinh had been facing up to 10 years’ imprisonment if convicted, however, the prosecution’s allegations against her were withdrawn, 7News reported

“The prosecution has indicated they will no longer proceed against you with these charges. You are now discharged and you can leave the dock,” Judge Michael Byrne QC said. The court did not hear why prosecutors had dropped all charges.

Once the news of the withdrawal of charges broke, members of the Australian public were quick to take to social media to share their opinions. Many were outraged over the decision, while others maintained that the prosecution was right, due to a lack of evidence.

“I get caught doing 50 in a badly signposted 40km zone and get a hefty fine and demerit points and yet someone can bring a whole industry to its knees and potentially seriously injure someone and nothing happens,” one man wrote on Facebook.

“Seems suss to me. They had solid evidence it was her and they can’t follow through with a charge? Pathetic,” another person added.

One wrote, “Why am I not surprised! With our failing judicial system, people can get away with almost anything. I bet the poor farmers who [lost] millions weren’t compensated.”

Others stood up for the woman, saying the media’s heavy coverage of the case had obscured public perception. “Don’t you people read? Lack of evidence!!! It’s not trial by social media,” one commented.

“Innocent until proven guilty. This is media sensationalism that has obscured your perception of the case,” another said.

The strawberry needle saga began in September 2018, when a number of needles were found in strawberries in Queensland before copycat cases began appearing across Australia and even New Zealand.

In the weeks and months that followed, other fruits and vegetables became the subject of similar contamination, sparking further fears. In total, there were more than 180 reports of contamination, with more than 65 strawberry brands affected across the country.

In mid-November, two months after the saga began, the Queensland Police Service confirmed they had charged a 50-year-old woman, now named as My Ut Trinh, following a “complex investigation” into the alleged contamination of strawberries across Queensland.

According to reports at the time, the woman had a “gripe” with the strawberry farmer and allegedly told people she was going to “bring [the farmer] down” and “put him out of business”. She was allegedly caught after her DNA was found on one of the needles in a contaminated strawberry.

The crisis, which saw strawberries pulled from shelves across the country out of fear of contamination, had a crippling impact on strawberry farmers for some time.

Do you think the woman should have been charged?

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