A few weeks ago I was in a shop with my 2 friends, let's say me, 'Sarah' and 'John'. Sarah decided to shoplift, oh goody. As we happened to be with her, it was not good for us. I had tried on two items in the changing room, one which was later found in Sarah's bag. We were in the store for quite a while, and the shopgirls were getting suspicious. I warned Sarah that they know and that we will get caught, however she said 'don't worry'. On our way out, we were stopped and our bags were searched.
Sarah's bag had - 4 items, all stolen, tags removed.
My bad - a jumper I had gotten from the brand of the store we were in, I did not steal it but was accused so because it was from the same brand.
John's - nothing.
We were taken to the back of the store and held until the security for the shopping centre we were in arrived. They came to watch us and ask us about what was going on. I explain that I had stolen nothing, the jumper was bought a few days ago. They said 'do you have the receipt here?' and I told them I don't bring receipts for what I wear wherever I go, especially if it was from a different day. They asked where I got it, so I told them where I was the day I think I got it(I don't recall when) and they called one of the stores I named to see if any of the jumpers were bought on that day. None were, apparently(which I don't even believe, because it's a popular jumper). They then asked us 'Would you pay for these things a second time(as in, we already bought them but will pay again)if it meant we will not get the cops involved?' So I said, no, because we didn't steal. They continued asking us, and I said no each time. Finally, I got sick of them repeating the same question over and over, so I said 'Yes, to get rid of this mess.'
The guards turned to the store people and said 'Alright, call the cops.'
I asked why they are calling the cops if they said we can pay for it instead. They told us 'If you want to pay for it, obviously you stole it.' I was disgusted.
While waiting for the cops, I asked the shopgirls 'I want to see proof that I stole a jumper which I had already bought.' They said 'We found ripped off tags for all of the items we seized, especially one tag in the dressing room you were in.' So I said 'Alright, let's see my jumper's tag then.' They said 'We don't have to show you anything.'
When the cops arrived, we were right away treated as criminals, without being asked for our story or them looking at any proof. They searched our bags, throwing everything out on the floor and then throwing it all back in our backs with no regard to anything that may break. They also noticed we had video games in our bags which we were going to trade in to get some cash from EB Games, and took them and went to EB Games to also look into whether we stole those or not(impossible at EB, btw, as all display/public items are just boxes, with no game inside). They soon let John go when they were told the games are not stolen, as he had absolutely nothing in his bag(he had makeup because he sometimes, rarely, wears some, and they made disapproving faces when he said it was his, which was extremely rude), and kept me and Sarah. Sarah was handcuffed and they told her the she has the right to remain silent sentence quickly. I was not, and was told nothing. We were taken to the police station. They were very rude to us.
There, we were put into separate interview/interrogation rooms and questioned and held for one or two hours maybe. They kept blaming me and trying to force me to say I stole what I didn't. They also tried to force me to say I ripped off tags too, and asked my friend to steal for me, and whatnot. Only after a while did they call our parents. While waiting, one of them came in with a camera and took my photos(and my friend's in the other room). They also said they can keep me there over the weekend locked up, and then take me to magistrate's court or something if I didn't just admit my crimes(which I didn't commit).
While being held, they also said something along the lines of 'Check their phones too' outside of the room I was in. When I checked after getting out, half of the messages I had not even seen on my phone yet were already marked as 'read'.
When my father arrived, we went through the same process after I got to talk to him for a bit about what happened. I also found out, the shop girl who was also brought in for an interview now was saying that I had 3 items in my bag, not the one jumper which wasn't even from today. I told the, no, that's bullshit, you can ask Sarah (who was now admitting to stealing). They later came back with 4 jumpers, put them on the table in front of me, and asked me which one is mine. I easily chose mine, the cop gave an unhappy look, and left. Later, he brought it in again while my father was in the room again. He asked, 'is this your jumper?'. I said yes. I said I can prove I had it because I took a photo in it the previous day. I also said, the jumper itself has evidence on it. It doesn't smell store fresh as I hadnt washed it yet, it has cat hair on it from my cat, it had a stain on the back, and my mother even said she saw me leave the house in it on this day in the morning. My father also told them he has seen me in it before this day. He left the room.
Later, he came back and said 'You took a tag off one of the items and put it in the dressing room. You assisted in shoplifting, and that is a crime. You are a criminal.' He also said that I had asked my friend to steal it for me, which is not true. He then gave me the choice - 'be held here for the weekend, or admit your crime and receive a warning(which lasts 5 years)'. Of course I didn't want to go to court or be held there. And it was obvious I couldn't prove my innocence as I had two policemen and 4 or so lying shopgirls against me. So I chose warning to get out of this mess.
As I was collecting my things to go home, the cop took my jumper 'for further investigating.' I told him, I had already proven it was mine. He said 'No, you probably just stole it on a different day. To this day, I still haven't heard news of the jumper from them. They just kept it, or disposed of it, probably.'
Now, aside from the obvious fucked up logic going on by them, here's what I'm confused about:
Me(16) and Sarah(17) are both underage. Are they legally allowed to question us without our parents there first?
Are they legally allowed to take photographs without our permission? (I read somewhere that they can't)
Why was I not handcuffed and told my rights?
Why was I forced to admit a crime I did not commit, even after proving that the only thing in my bag, the jumper, was mine and worn before?
Were they allowed to take items not even from the store and not related, to see if we had stolen them from another store too?
One cop had asked Sarah about her father, who left the family, and tried to probe deeper than was obviously comfortable.
They asked me about things in my life which had nothing to do with the case.
They made rude remarks all the way through, right from the start accusing us as being criminals. Me and John don't go to school, he finished early and I was going to go overseas this year for schooling. So they said 'you don't go because you're out theivin' '. Was this even appropriate?
They told me that taking tags off clothing is a crime, even if I actually stole nothing or did anything wrong. Is it?
Were they allowed to look through my phone/messages without my permission?
Thank you for your help in advance!