24 November 2016

A common sense police approach to investigating sexting among under-18s

As reports of sexting between young people continue to rise, police forces are given advice on how to respond in a measured and proportionate way.

​The College of Policing has published a briefing note which aims to help officers to respond in a proportionate way to reports of under 18-year-olds possessing, sharing or generating indecent imagery of themselves or other children – often referred to as sexting. 

Research by the NSPCC found that three per cent of 11-16 year olds surveyed had taken fully naked pictures of themselves, with a smaller proportion reporting sharing the image.

All reports of youth produced sexual imagery require a police response.  This response needs to be balanced to the circumstances of each individual case with the immediate focus always being on safeguarding children.

Officers have to record all cases as crimes and investigate to determine whether there are a wider child protection issues or the presence of exploitation and coercion; in these cases there must be a full criminal investigation. 

Offences involving self-generated images or images obtained with consent by other children will still be recorded but may be dealt with differently. Forces may consider that suitably experienced first responders, safer school officers or neighbourhood teams can provide an appropriate response that avoids stigmatising or criminalising children.

This briefing note has been developed in parallel with new UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) advice for schools in England. Education services have been given guidance on when best to engage with the police on this issue to encourage a more joined up and practical response to benefit the children involved.

You can view the Police action in response to sexting - briefing (003).pdf and read further details on the NPCC website.

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