Boys across Yorkshire as young as 12 in revenge porn - ‘Law is letting victims down’

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Children as young as 12 across Yorkshire have committed and fallen victim to revenge porn, official figures have revealed.

Two 12-year-old boys were reported to Yorkshire’s largest police force – West Yorkshire Police – for sharing intimate images of their victims in 2017 and 2016. No action was brought against both boys due to evidential difficulties.

The youngest victim of revenge porn was also a 12-year-old boy, who reported the crime to West Yorkshire Police in 2016. The alleged perpetrator was a 15-year-old female.

In North Yorkshire, the youngest recorded victim was also 12 years old. It is not known if the victim was male or female.

Responding to the figures, an NSPCC spokeswoman said: “It is shocking that children as young as 12 are becoming victims of revenge porn and underlines why it is so vital that parents and carers have regular online safety chats with our children.

“Sharing nude selfies or videos can put young people at risk of bullying by peers or being targeted by adult sex offenders. By having regular online safety chats with children, young people can feel empowered to say no to sexting requests.

“The NSPCC has created a guide for families about the risks of sexting, what the law says, and what to do if their child has shared a nude image that is being circulated online or among their peers.”

It became a criminal offence to disclose private sexual photographs and films with intent to cause distress four years ago.

If a person is convicted of revenge porn they can face up to two years in prison.

A 13-year-old girl was the youngest victim reported to South Yorkshire Police, while a 15-year-old boy was the youngest perpetrator reported to the force.

While the number of crimes are increasing, the number of people charged and convicted has plummeted across all four Yorkshire forces.

Of the 51 revenge porn offences reported to West Yorkshire Police in 2018 – only five people were charged.

In South Yorkshire, 13 people were charged out of 192 offences reported in 2018.

The figures echo the same trend for North Yorkshire and Humberside force areas.

In North Yorkshire, 45 victims came forward in 2017/18, but only two people were convicted. Across the Humber area, the latest figures show there were four prosecutions for revenge porn in 2017, leading to three convictions.

Humberside Police said it is very difficult to control what happens to a photograph when it is posted online and have issued some advice for young people.

A force spokesman said: “Think very carefully before you share any sexual images, whether this is online, in person or text. Think – would you want everyone to see that image?

“If you are a victim of revenge porn, we would encourage you to take screenshots of what you’ve found and where it has been shared.

“Social media pictures can be removed quickly when they are reported, leaving you without proof of a crime.”

Victims of revenge porn can contact their police force on 101 or alternatively visit their force website where advice is available. Children are also encouraged to visit the NSPCC website at www.nspcc.org.uk for more information.

North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Julia Mulligan is calling for revenge porn legislation to be reclassifed from a communications offence to a sexual offence to give victims automatic anonymity. She believes victims are being let down on a daily basis by the current legislation.

She said: “Anonymity is key because our research shows it affects reporting and conviction rates, meaning victims suffer in silence and struggle to get the justice they deserve.

“When you see some of the ages of those involved, it raises the stakes further and shows us this is a modern policing problem which needs a carefully thought through solution, which the current law just does not provide.”