THREE young girls were reduced to tears when police accosted them for picking daffodils in a Poole park.

Officers told the parents of the girls - Sienna, four, six-year-old Olivia and India, 10 - to move on or they could be arrested for theft.

Jane Errington, mother of Olivia and step-mum to the other two girls, and her partner Marc Marengo were left fuming at the "heavy-handed" response.

But Councillor Peter Adams, who said a family member of his had reported the incident, said taking the flowers amounted to stealing and the behaviour was "unacceptable".

Mrs Errington and her family, from Lilliput, were enjoying the spring sunshine at Whitecliff on Sunday morn¬ing.

She said the girls had brought over some flowers and the family was then approached by the officers.

"The girls had just been picking flowers in the sunshine and were left crying their eyes out," said the mum.

"They say they don't want to go back to the park now because they are scared of the police.

"It seems stupid for the police to be called to deal with this - surely taxpayers' money can be better spent than watching some girls picking flowers?"

Whitecliff is a council-owned park and therefore removing property from it is technically classed as an offence.

Cllr Adams said the girls had taken "large bunches of 70-80 flowers", and that his response had been fair and proportionate.

"We are very proud of our parks and can't have people ripping up public property," said Cllr Adams.

"The parents were encouraging them to do it and it is unacceptable.

"I am a reasonable person and would not have called the police if they were just picking two or three flowers, but this was totally disgraceful."

Mrs Errington refuted the suggestion they encouraged the flower picking and said they would have stopped the girls taking them if someone had brought it to their attention.

Dorset Police said they had received a report of criminal damage to flower beds on Sunday.

Officers were sent to the scene but no further action was taken, said a police spokesman.