13-year-old Kiralye Harley was wrongly accused of stealing a cap from Big W at Booval.
13-year-old Kiralye Harley was wrongly accused of stealing a cap from Big W at Booval. Inga Williams

'Big W staff made me feel like a criminal'

WITHOUT knowing the reason why, 13-year-old Kiralye Harley was escorted from Big W by police, read her rights and held for questioning at Booval Fair Police Beat.

All without cause as it turned out. The teenager was accused of stealing a cap from the store while shopping with her mother Beckie-Lee, older sister Shaneice and her 10-month-old nephew Levi.

Police later discovered Kiralye was innocent when they checked the cap's tag, which had a Kmart logo on it.

Officers apologised on the scene and Booval Fair centre management have also expressed their regret since the incident.

Despite being made aware of the mistake, a fuming Beckie-Lee said the Big W staff involved refused to apologise at the time.

"It was guilty until proven innocent," she said.

"We spent more than $150 at the store and we have been left feeling victimised, ill-treated, humiliated (and) embarrassed."

Beckie-Lee said a customer initially alerted staff to the supposed theft.

"Two staff members waited until I left the store and left my daughter before notifying the police officer," she said.

"The police officer arrested both my daughters over the matter.

"Both girls and the baby were being escorted to the police beat as I arrived back."

Kiralye said the experience had left her shaken, as someone who had never been in trouble with the law before.

"As soon as we walked out there was a policewoman there. Me and my sister were panicking wondering what we did," she said.

"They said we were arrested and we didn't know why. I was about to cry. I was just freaking out and was scared."

After police realised Kirayle was innocent, Beckie-Lee said they escorted her and her daughters back to Big W.

"The officer told Big W staff who accused my daughter that (she) was innocent and the cap was from Kmart. We were not given an apology."

Beckie-Lee said the family requested an apology again and were told the store had up to "seven thefts a day" and were given excuses by the duty manager.

"Why was an innocent 13-year-old child arrested for stealing a product from a store that doesn't even sell the item?" she asked.

"I had not broken the law but was still made to feel as though I had and so had both my daughters.

"They owed my daughter an apology."

The QT contacted Big W and the company has since offered Kiralye and her family an apology,

A Big W spokeswoman said the Booval store had begun retraining staff.

"Big W has contacted the customer and her family to offer our apologies for any embarrassment caused by a misunderstanding at our Booval store," she said.

"We have spoken to our store team to remind them of store processes and we are recommencing in-store training to ensure this does not happen again."

Centre management have said they would also be meeting with both police and the store to ensure a similar situation wouldn't happen in the future.

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