A 14 year old boy who sent a naked ‘selfie’ of himself to a girl the same age had the crime of making and distributing an indecent image of a child recorded on a police crime report.
Disclosure and Barring Service
The boy was not formally arrested or interviewed, but a police officer was present whilst he was questioned about it by school staff. Schools do not have the power to inspect or seize mobile phones, but the police do. That officer then recorded the incident. This means that under the enhanced Disclosure Barring Service rules, this information could be disclosable in the future to a potential employer of the boy.
The schoolboy told Radio 4’s Today programme that he sent it to the girl using Snapchat – an app which deletes messages within 10 seconds. However, the girl took a screenshot of it and then sent it to other pupils in the school.
If he had been aged over 18 then he would have been the victim of the offence of revenge porn and those distributing the images could potentially have been prosecuted. However as a child, the situation is very different.
The case sets out very clearly the dangers of children and teens sexting pictures of themselves to others. Sharing pictures of under 18s is an offence , even if they are taken by youngsters themselves – as long as they are over 10 years old. This potentially puts young people at risk of arrest, charge and appearing in court.
Chid Sexual Abuse
The growth in criminal offences dealing with child sexual abuse may be nobly aimed at tackling a very real problem, but this anomaly in the law can lead to very unjust situations, potentially criminalising children when as an adult they would have been treated differently (known as a ‘status offence’). The law is clearly lagging behind technology very badly here. It needs urgent change, as it cannot have been parliament’s intention that children and not adults should be caught by the legislation.
It also raises the issue of when school discipline should tip in to criminalisation. It is standard practice now for high schools to have police liaison officers present at such interviews with pupils. If that officer records the procedure on a crime report – which happens when a school or a parent wishes the police to record the information – then it becomes potentially disclosable at a later date.
The police may or may not then launch a proper investigation of an offence. But even if they decide not to, if that young person then in later life needs an enhanced DBS check (formerly known as a CRB check) for a job, the police could still decide that it should be disclosed on the form. There is an appeals procedure regarding this, but who wants to be put in that position in the first place?
Specialist Criminal Defence Solicitors London & Manchester
Olliers can help you if you or your child has been caught up in such a situation. We can make sure there is proper representation in place when needed, or we can try and assist you to get information off the police national computer that might jeopardise the chances of a child in later life.
Written by Alex Preston. Alex specialises in the defence of serious crime and inquests.