Under-18s account for 40 per cent of Cumbria’s indecent image offences

Under-18s account for 40 per cent of Cumbria’s indecent image offences

5 September 2016 8:52PM
Shocking
figures reveal that 40 per cent of indecent image offences in Cumbria
were committed by under-18s, prompting fears over the dangers of
sexting.
Cumbria police has
revealed that out of 173 offences reported in 2013, 2014 and 2015, 69
involved young people – many of which are said to involve ‘sexting’.
The
figures – obtained by children’s charity the NSPCC under the Freedom of
Information Act – also reveal the number of indecent image offences
reported in the same period has increased by 150 per cent.
But
police say this is due to the fact victims are more willing to come
forward and report such crimes, rather than an increase in offenders.
The
NSPCC is urging parents to talk to children about the risks of sharing
nude selfies on mobile phones and social media as this may be partly
fuelling the rise in offences by under-18s.
A survey by the charity recently revealed only half of parents knew that children taking nude selfies were committing a crime.
Nationally, more than 2,000 children were reported to police for indecent image offences over the three-year period.
Abi
Reed, mentoring coordinator at Carlisle Youth Zone, said that sexting
and sending indecent images is a subject staff are well aware of and are
aiming to tackle.
“We know
that young people are sending images of themselves over Snapchat, which
seems to be the most popular at the minute, or Facebook,” she explained.
 Abi Reed
Abi Reed

“A lot of the time, they don’t realise the image could end up in the
wrong hands. They think they’re sending it to their friends only, but
soon enough it can end up going round school.

“That’s something that we try to teach them about – how to be more responsible and be aware of the consequences.
“I also think there’s a bit of naivety in it. They don’t realise they’re committing an offence.”
Abi
said that although sexting is not a huge problem within Carlisle,
youngsters at the Youth Zone have been known to approach staff on the
issue.
“We’ve had people come
to us when they’ve been sent an indecent image,” she added. “More often
than not, the person who has sent it doesn’t realise what harm they’re
doing towards themselves or who might end up seeing it.
“We encourage anyone who has been a victim to report it to police and offer whatever support we can.”
Detective
Inspector Nick Coughlan, of Cumbria police, said it has invested in
staff and new technology to create a Digital Media Investigations Unit,
which is dedicated to detecting and investigating online crime.
 DI Nick Coughlan
DI Nick Coughlan

He added: “When we detect offences involving young people sending
images of themselves we work sensitively with the young person, their
family and our partners in education, health and social care to educate
and divert them from putting themselves at risk. We do not want to
criminalise young people who make mistakes and our focus is on adults
who target young people.”

Peter
Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC, said: “Over the last two
decades, digital technology has fuelled an explosion in the production
and consumption of child sexual abuse images that increasingly involves
the streaming of live video.
“As
well as pursuing and deterring adults who make and distribute these, we
must educate children about how to keep themselves safe online and
offline and how to get help as soon as grooming or abuse happens.”

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