Kent police hit an all time low telling a 10 year old girl she could be a criminal for playing hopscotch outside her home.
A girl aged ten was told by police that she could be arrested for causing criminal damage – over a game of hopscotch.
Lilly-May Allen was playing with a friend on a grid she had chalked on the pavement in front of her home when a marked police van pulled up.
An officer warned the girls that using chalk on the pavement was criminal damage and they could be arrested for it, before driving off.
But the girls did not understand what they had done wrong and Lilly-May is now reluctant to play outside, according to her father.
After Lilly-May told her parents about the incident, they called the police to clarify the law, but officers refused to confirm whether drawing a hopscotch grid in chalk on the pavement was an offence – even though it washes away in the rain.
The girl’s father, Bob Allen, 51, who runs his own karaoke business, said: ‘The policeman said to her that what she had done was criminal damage and she could be arrested. He then drove off.
‘She didn’t come into the house for a while and didn’t tell us straight away because she thought I was going to tell her off for being naughty.
‘She couldn’t even remember what the policeman had told her it was – only criminal something.’
He added: ‘She is only ten and didn’t know what she had done wrong.
‘I rang up the police and asked if chalking up a hopscotch grid was an offence and they wouldn’t say yes or no and said it was a grey area.
‘I’m angry and upset and if it was against the law then the policeman should have knocked on our door and said something.’
Mr Allen, who lives in a three-bedroom semi-detached home in Ramsgate, Kent, said the incident on Monday had knocked his daughter’s confidence about playing outside.
He added: ‘Lilly-May is very dubious about going out to play now in case a policeman tells her off.
She’s started playing with her friend in our car in the drive instead.’
Lilly-May said yesterday: ‘It was a bit silly and I really didn’t know why I was in trouble. I’m still going to play hopscotch outside though.’
Her father has now given her the nickname ‘Banksy’, after the Bristolian graffiti artist whose stunts have adorned public buildings across the world, to try to make her feel less worried.
A Kent Police spokesman said: ‘We are trying to trace the officers who are reported to have made this comment.
‘From the circumstances described, it would not appear to have been necessary to advise the young girl that chalking a hopscotch grid may be criminal damage and illegal.’
Last month the country’s first youth police and crime commissioner resigned her post before starting work at the same force after violent, homophobic and racist messages that she had written on the internet were revealed.
The ‘scotch’ part of the game’s name means ‘an incised line or scratch’.
Hopscotch was first recorded in England in the Book of Games – which was compiled between 1635 and 1672 – where it is referred to as ‘scotch-hopper’.
But historians believe it was widely played across the country centuries before.
The game involves children throwing a coin or stone into the grid and hopping from box to box in a set pattern to retrieve the object.
Many school playgrounds have hopscotch grids marked into the concrete, but they can also be chalked on stone or scratched into dirt.