Not all un­der-18 sex­ting cases be­ing in­ves­ti­gated

Western Mail - - NEWS - ANNA LEWIS Re­porter [email protected]­

HUN­DREDS of sus­pects in un­der­age sex­ting cases have not been in­ves­ti­gated by po­lice after it was deemed not to be in the pub­lic in­ter­est.

More than 250 young peo­ple have not been probed by po­lice in the past three years after mak­ing or send­ing il­le­gal pho­tos, re­sults from a Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion re­quest sug­gest.

Un­der UK law, it is il­le­gal to make, dis­trib­ute, pos­sess or show a sex­ual im­age of any­one un­der 18. This in­cludes images sent be­tween un­der- 18s within a con­sen­sual re­la­tion­ship.

But not all cases re­ported to po­lice will end in court, due to the “sen­si­tive” na­ture of the cir­cum­stances in­volved.

Across South Wales, 176 ju­ve­niles were not in­ves­ti­gated in con­sen­sual sex­ting cases be­tween 2016 and 2018 after it was deemed not to be in the pub­lic in­ter­est, our in­for­ma­tion re­quest re­vealed.

Four in­di­vid­u­als re­ceived a cau­tion dur­ing the same time pe­riod and 19 ju­ve­niles were charged.

Mean­while, in North Wales 93 ju­ve­niles were not in­ves­ti­gated after be­ing re­ported to po­lice over the same three-year pe­riod. How­ever, the fig­ures do not dis­tin­guish be­tween con­sen­sual and non-con­sen­sual cases.

No in­di­vid­u­als were cau­tioned or charged for con­sen­sual cases where images had been made and shared be­tween young peo­ple.

Dyfed-Powys Po­lice said they were un­able to pro­vide the rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion due to the time scale re­quired to re­trieve the in­for­ma­tion.

Gwent Po­lice had not replied to the re­quest at the time of pub­li­ca­tion.

Re­spond­ing to the fig­ures, a spokesman for South Wales Po­lice warned against view­ing sex­ting as a “harm­less teenage be­hav­iour”.

He said: “Where of­fences are iden­ti­fied, South Wales Po­lice seeks to deal in a pro­por­tion­ate man­ner, and a range of out­comes utilised to en­sure chil­dren are not un­nec­es­sar­ily drawn into the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem.

“These are sen­si­tive cases, and po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tions should con­sider the long-term im­pact of in­ves­ti­ga­tion and pros­e­cu­tion on young peo­ple.

“Po­lice will take all cases se­ri­ously, with crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions into those in­volv­ing any form of ex­ploita­tion. But it will al­ways be a com­mon­sense ap­proach that doesn’t crim­i­nalise chil­dren un­nec­es­sar­ily.

“At the same time, it is im­por­tant that this ac­tiv­ity isn’t viewed as just harm­less teenage be­hav­iour.

“There are sig­nif­i­cant risks in­volved for chil­dren and young peo­ple; once an im­age is sent, con­trol is lost, and it can cause sig­nif­i­cant dis­tress if it gets into wider hands.

“We are clear that if this be­hav­iour can be dealt with in other, more ap­pro­pri­ate, ways, then it should be.”

North Wales Po­lice did not wish to com­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to Amy Beau­fort, su­per­vi­sor at NSPCC’s Child­line Cardiff branch, sex­ting can have se­ri­ous con­se­quences on a young per­son’s men­tal heath.

She said: “It’s some­thing we are find­ing a lot of young peo­ple talk­ing about.

“They will have ques­tions around what can hap­pen next if they send an im­age. As soon as a young per­son sends an im­age or video, it’s out of their con­trol. That worry about who could see it has a mas­sive im­pact. It can cre­ate con­cerns and upset along with other is­sues and puts that pres­sure on some­one’s men­tal health.

“We also have young peo­ple talk to us who have asked for images from other peo­ple. We have young peo­ple who have no aware­ness of the fact that it is il­le­gal.”

She added: “The more par­ents, teach­ers and young peo­ple are aware of the con­se­quences, the more we can help teach peo­ple not to send images in the first place.”

An NSPCC Cymru/Wales spokesper­son added: “Chil­dren who share images of them­selves should be taught why it’s po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous rather than be branded crim­i­nals.

“But many young peo­ple also tell us, via Child­line, that they feel pres­sured into send­ing sex­ual images and don’t al­ways have the con­fi­dence to say no.

“It’s vi­tal par­ents take the first step – even if it feels awk­ward – to talk to their child about the dan­gers of sex­ting and the NSPCC has a guide for par­ents to help them have this con­ver­sa­tion.”

■ You can get fur­ther ad­vice about sex­ting here or call Child­line for free on 0800 1111. Par­ents get can the lat­est ad­vice by us­ing the O2 NSPCC on­line safety helpline or by call­ing 0808 800 5002.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.