‘Stop criminalizing teens for sexting,’ says parliamentary report

© Eduard Korniyenko
Children should not be criminalized for ‘experimental behavior’ such as sexting, a parliamentary group of MPs and peers has said.

A report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children (APPGC) found that criminalizing young teens who exchange explicit images with one another may unnecessarily limit their “future education and career options.”

The group called on the Home Office to give police more flexibility in logging low-level crime-related behavior. Many children charged with such crimes receive out-of-court disposals. Though less harsh than prosecutions, disposals are still noted in records and must be disclosed on background checks conducted by some employers.

Baroness Massey, who co-chairs the group, said the rules that dictate how police record their response to such incidents must be changed.

“Many young people end up with a criminal record for trivial offences,” she said. “We know, for example, that teenagers are being added to police databases for sexting with their peers.

“In cases such as these, police should have the discretion to refer the child to another agency for support – their school, social services or counseling, for example – without it forming a permanent part of the record held against the name and undermining their future.”

Policing Minister Mike Penning said: “We have been clear that the police must accurately record the crimes members of the public report to them – it is essential victims have confidence they will be taken seriously and their crime will be dealt with properly.

“Police officers can and should, however, exercise their discretion in the action they take once a crime has been reported.”

READ MORE: ​Teen girl on child porn charge over nude selfies

After a 14-year-old boy made headlines when he was added to a national police database in September for sending a naked selfie to a classmate on Snapchat, the National Crime Agency launched a campaign to curb the epidemic of sexting.

The agency claims it receives reports of teens sharing explicit images on a daily basis.