A BUNDABERG restaurant's decision to post a picture on Facebook of a young boy stealing a tip jar has sparked hot debate about how to deal with juvenile offenders.
The theft was believed to have occurred at Montezuma's on Woongarra St at the weekend, with two photos of the boy - one outside the restaurant and one of him grabbing hold of the tip jar at the front counter - posted on Facebook about 3.30pm Sunday.
By yesterday morning, there were more than 100 comments posted, the majority of which were in support of the restaurant's actions.
The photos were taken down shortly after 9am.
Despite the NewsMail making many attempts to speak to the owners of Montezuma's, our calls were not returned.
The NewsMail asked readers through Facebook and its website whether identifying the boy was reasonable or if it was "trial by Facebook", and a violation of the spirit of the Juvenile Justice Act.
Reader Maria Jenkins said she thought it was a good idea to post the pictures of the young thief.
"Why should he get away with it? It's stealing at any age," she commented on Facebook.
Late yesterday, an online NewsMail poll showed 81% of the 143 voters believed Montezuma's did the right thing by publishing the photos, while 14% were against it and 4% were undecided.
A Bundaberg Police spokesman said because Facebook was a public forum, with open access to all members of the community, it was not an offence to identify a suspected offender if they had not been charged.
The police spokesman also said Montezuma's had not reported the theft.
The incident comes hot on the heels of Queensland Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie's announcement on Saturday that he wanted to see the names of young repeat offenders disclosed, even for minor offences.
His plan has been met with criticism, including from the Queensland Council for Civil Liberties, which has also criticised the actions of Montezuma's Bundaberg.
President Michael Cope said by posting the photos of the young child on Facebook, it assumed that he was guilty.
"If he can be identified, he's going to be tarred with that for the rest of his life for what is a minor offence," he said.
"You are inflicting a punishment on them that is way out of proportion to what they've done."
Mr Cope said most minors committed offences on impulse.
"Children are not adults - they're not fully responsible for what they do," he said.
"For that reason, the law has traditionally treated them differently by not naming them for things they are not responsible for."
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