September 3rd 2015
A 14 year-old boy who sent a naked photo of himself to a female classmate of the same age, has had the crime of making and distributing indecent images recorded against him by police. The move has attracted some controversy but also highlights the importance of considering the consequences of impulsive behaviour in the digital world and placing your total trust in technology.
The schoolboy from the North of England was not formally arrested or charged, but could have his details stored on a police intelligence database for at least ten years. Police have said it was not in the public interest to prosecute the minor.
The boy was flirting with the girl online from his bedroom when he took the naked selfie and sent it to her via Snapchat, the popular app which allows users’ direct messages to disappear after ten seconds. However, the girl quickly took a screenshot of the image on her phone and sent it to fellow pupils at the school.
The matter was brought to the attention of a police officer based at the school, and the boy’s mother has been informed that his details – together with those of the girl and another teenager – could be stored on the database for at least ten years.
Talking to BBC’s Today programme, she said that her son had been “humiliated”, saying that he was “at best naïve” and at worst being “a teenager”, and that many children at the school take part in sexting. She added that police had only recently started filing crime reports about similar incidents, something her son says he was not aware of.
The school, however, said that all students were informed about the recent change in policy, also being taught in assemblies and class about the dangers of sexting.
The boy said: "Something that I did when I was 14 that could reflect badly in the future."
Sussex Police Deputy Chief Constable Olivia Pinkney, the National Police Chief Council's lead on children and young people, said if a school chose to take an incident to the police, officers must record the crime. She added that the boy would be able to appeal against the decision before it was disclosed to future employers, saying she did not believe it would ever "be disclosed".
The Home Office told the BBC it is "the responsibility of individual police forces" to accurately record crimes.
The Criminal Bar Association said the case highlighted the dangers of needlessly criminalising children.