Non-statutory guidance on managing incidents of sexting by children. The guidance states that the response should be guided by the principle of proportionality and the primary concern at all times should be the welfare and protection of the children involved.
On 15 August the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) published non-statutory guidance on managing incidents of sexting by under-18s. Over 200 organisations were involved in creating the guidance, including government and the DfE, children’s charities, UK Safer Internet Centre, CEOP, Police, and teachers’ groups. Read the guidance on Sexting in Schools and Colleges.
The guidance indicates that although sharing sexual images of themselves is illegal and risky, it is often the result of curiosity and exploration. Children need education, support and safeguarding, not criminalisation.
The guidance reinforces the following key messages:
- the laws created in relation to sexual images of children were not intended to criminalise children but to protect them;
- responses should be guided by the principle of proportionaloity and the primary concern at all times should be the welfare and protection of the young people involved;
- the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) is clear that “youth-produced sexual imagery should be primarily treated as a safeguarding issue”;
- Schools may respond to incidents without involving the police.
The guidance addresses concerns about crime recording and criminal records. When the police are notified about youth-produced sexual imagery, they must record this as a crime. Every crime reported to the police must have an outcome code. In January 2016, the NPCC, Home Office and the DBS agreed a new outcome code for youth-produced sexual imagery.
Outcome 21 states: “Further investigation, resulting from the crime report, which could provide evidence sufficient to support formal action being taken against the suspect is not in the public interest. This is a police decision.”
This allows the police discretion to take no further action if it is not in the public interest, even though there is enough evidence to prosecute.
Using this outcome code is likely to mean the offence would not appear on a future enhanced DBS check, although not impossible, as that disclosure is a risk-based decision.
Schools and colleges should also read the Department for Education’s (DfE) Keeping Children Safe in Education.
Although outcome 21 is a positive development and designed to minimise the adverse impact on young people, schools and colleges can best protect children by responding to incidents informally without notifying the police.
The National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) will be also be publishing guidance later this month. The existing Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) guidance on young people who post self-taken indecent images is here.