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After being harassed on Instagram for explicit pictures, the 12-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, sent topless pictures to the internet predator. Upon discovery, her family reported it to the police and Child Exploitation and Online Protection Unit (CEOP).
The iPad from which the picture was sent from was taken for investigation. The girl’s mother said the profile that bombarded her daughter with messages used a heart emoji and a Chelsea football badge as ID, and that it seemed like a fake profile.
Her mum explained that the CEOP officer followed up her report by calling and telling her that her daughter could be charged, and that this could result in a criminal record.
Her mother said:
I couldn’t believe it. How can the victim end up with a criminal record? She’s a young, innocent girl who has made a big, big mistake.
But calling her a criminal? How is that in the public interest?
So, while the predator remains free and able to manipulate more children, a young girl – the real victim of grooming – has been threatened with a police investigation for sending an indecent image.
It is extremely important to remember that this is a child who has been influenced into sending incredibly personal pictures of herself to a suspected paedophile.
The mental impact following this gross invasion of her privacy would have already been extremely damaging, but now she has also been accused of a crime. It is almost as if the authorities are victim blaming.
The mother explained:
She’s the victim. She was coerced into sending it. There’s a paedophile out there yet they’re talking about criminalising a little girl.
She’s scared, upset, worrying about what is going to happen and I’m questioning if I did the right thing in reporting it.
My child is a victim of grooming but now she might be branded a criminal. If this is happening it could put other parents off reporting abuse. How many people actually knew this was the law?
An anxious wait
In this instance we understand the child sent an image of herself to another person. Creating or sharing explicit images of a child is illegal even if the person doing so is a child.
If a young person is found creating or sharing images, the police must record a crime has been committed in line with Home Office Counting Rules and investigate the circumstances.
Dependent upon those circumstances they have discretion not to take formal action if it isn’t in the public interest to do so.
Police are encouraged to take a common sense approach that does not criminalise children unnecessarily.
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