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Police face legal challenge over refusing to delete teenage boy's details for 'sexting'

Judge grants permission for judicial review after family argue boy's human rights have been violated 

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Friday 10 November 2017 18:35 GMT
The boy had sent an explicit photo to a girl over Snapchat
The boy had sent an explicit photo to a girl over Snapchat (PA)

A teenage boy whose details were recorded by police for “sexting” is launching a legal challenge to have them deleted.

In the first case of its kind, representatives of the boy known only as CL, have won the right for a judicial review into Greater Manchester Police’s (GMP) actions.

The force put the boy’s details on its system over an incident in 2015, when he was 14 years old.

After sending a photo of his penis to a girl over Snapchat, his head teacher and a local police officer told his mother and warned him that it was a criminal offence.

He was not prosecuted but GMP have kept a record of the incident under laws forbidding the making or sharing of indecent images, and have refused to delete his name from their files.

The boy’s mother argued that the decision could violate his human rights and affect his future education and employment prospects if he has to disclose his police record.

"It's going to be held there infinitum, so for all his adult life it hangs over him,” she told the BBC.

"I'm his parent and it's my job to know when something needs to be dealt with and that's why I'm still pursuing proceedings to ultimately get his name removed.

"We are criminalising our children for something that if they did at the age of 18 is not a crime.”

A lawyer acting for the family told the High Court that police had breached the boy’s right to a private life under the Human Rights Act by recording the information and refusing to delete it.

“The potential impact on CL is immense and likely to have a number of consequences for him,” she told the hearing in Manchester.

Charlotte Bentham, acting for the Chief Constable of GMP, said the full retention of records was lawful and for a legitimate policing purpose.

Police are required to record all incidents on their crime systems by law, but can decide not to take further action against the young person if it is not in the public interest.

Forces treat usually treat “sexting” as a safeguarding issue for children rather than crime and the NSPCC’s guidance states that recorded incidents “are unlikely to appear on future records or checks, unless the young person has been involved in other similar activities which may indicate that they're a risk”.

But Mr Justice Kerr said the boy's case was “arguable” and granted him and his family permission for a judicial review.

The judge said the full hearing, at a date yet to be fixed, will hear all the arguments before a judge will decide if the police must delete the record they are keeping of the incident.

The family is being supported by the Just for Kids Law campaign group, which said it wanted to see “sense about sexting to prevent children from a lifetime of employment discrimination”.

Sexting cases involving children have more than doubled in two years, according to police figures, amid calls to educate boys and girls about the long-term implications of sharing explicit photographs of themselves.

Simon Bailey, the National Police Chiefs' Council lead for child protection, said at the time: “Forces are risk assessing every case to ensure we are not unnecessarily stigmatising children and saddling them with a criminal record.

“But there will always be a criminal investigation where we see that young people are being coerced, exploited or blackmailed.”

Additional reporting by PA

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