UK police add 14-year-old to police database for sending naked selfie using Snapchat
A 14-year-old boy has been added to a UK police intelligence database after he sent a naked image of himself to a female classmate at his school using Snapchat, with whom he was flirting with from his bedroom. The girl saved the image and shared it with others, which is how the incident came to light.
The boy, who lives in the north of England, was not arrested or charged. Nevertheless, the incident was recorded as a crime of “making and distributing an indecent image of a child,” even though it was of himself in what can be deemed as an example of ‘sexting’.
The boy’s mother said she was called by the school-based police officer and told briefly what had happened before sitting down with her son and his father.
“He was in his bedroom at his dad’s the night before, he was flirting with the girl and he sent a picture of himself via something called Snapchat,” said the the boy’s mother.
The application let’s the users take a picture or video, add a caption or doodle, and send it to a ‘friend’ which they can view for up to 10 seconds before it disappears. However, there is an option to save the image, but the sender is notified about it.
The Guardian reports, “the [database] file remains active for a minimum of 10 years, meaning the incident may be flagged to potential employers conducting an advanced Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check, such as for those who work with children.”
The mother explained that her son, who has not been identified, had been taken out of class and questioned by the assistant head teacher, alongside the police officer. Two other children were also involved.
‘As she [the police officer] went off the phone, her parting question was what does my son want to do when he leaves school, which I thought was a completely separate question.
‘And I said I don’t know, he’s just choosing his GCSE options, why? And she said it’s just that if he applied for advanced CRB clearing this could be flagged.’
Usually these checks are usually carried out for voluntary work or certain jobs, including working with children, in healthcare or applying to adopt or foster a child.
The boy’s mother questioned this further and she was told that the school officer did not have to submit crime reports until recently. However, she has just received an official instruction from her sergeant that these matters were to be dealt differently and crime reports were now required.
According to the crime reported submitted, she was told that her son and two other children had not been persuaded to accept the crime and that their parents had been informed, hence, no further action has been taken.
When the mother asked the significance of the enhanced CRB clearance, since it was not recorded as a crime she was told that it may be flagged and there was now intelligence against him.
‘I asked the police officer, why I wasn’t informed, why I wasn’t brought into school and she told me she didn’t have to, that she had the power to deal with matters in school.
‘So who was acting for my son? Who was stopping the questioning when it got too much?’
The boy now finds himself criminalised and potentially branded for life. He now spends his lunchtime in the library so that he does not get teased by classmates who have seen the image.
He said: ‘I shouldn’t have done it. It’s just annoying really, something that I did when I was 14 could reflect badly in future.’
He added that the incident was not rare in his school and that it’s something that he noticed happening ‘quite frequently’ around him.
‘You know, you hear from a few people who have done it every week,’ he added.
‘I’ve not seen the image since but I know that some people still have it. A few people have said it before, threatened me when I’ve had a go at them.’
The school says it does not have the authority to physically check phones and delete information unless they are captured by the police. However, they have asked the parents to do it. The school also said that all students are told about the consequences of this behavior in assemblies and ICT lessons and all children were notified of the recent change in policy.
There is no clarity whether police has registered a similar file against the girl who received and shared the image, or what action was taken against her.
Since the introduction of a revenge porn law in April, people who have found indecent or explicit images of themselves shared or posted on the internet have regularly been treated as victims rather than aggressors. In this case, had the boy been an adult, he would have been granted all the usual protections guaranteed by law.
The incident brings into light UK society’s continuing moral panic about young people exploring their sexuality in various ways.
Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England said: ‘Children and young people are now growing up in a digital age and we need to better understand what this means for all of us.
‘Helping children to understand the consequences of inappropriate images of both themselves as senders and receivers is vital.
‘Parents and schools have a very important role in explaining the consequences of sexting and sending illicit images of themselves or other young people.
‘This case has brought to light the impact of the digital world. There is an important discussion to be had with the way police deal with these situations and I would be concerned if children were criminalised as a result.’