A teenage boy has had a crime of making and distributing indecent images recorded against him after he sent a naked picture of himself to one of his female classmates. The 14-year-old was not formally arrested after he sent the explicit image to girl of the same age via Snapchat.
The police file against the boy will now remain active for 10 years, meaning any future employer conducting an advanced Criminal Records Bureau check will be aware of the incident.
The boy, who has not be identified, told the BBC he sent the image to the girl in his bedroom on Snapchat, a mobile app which deletes sent images after a few seconds, as a form of flirting or "sexting".
However, the girl made a screengrab of the image on her phone and forwarded it to her classmates at the school in the north of England. The boy said he has been left "embarrassed" by the incident and spends his lunchtimes in the library to avoid being teased by the pupils who have seen the image.
He told BBC Radio 4's today programme: "I shouldn't have done it. It's just annoying really, something that I did when I was 14 could reflect badly in future."
His mother added she was surprised that police recorded the incident. She said: "I think at best he was naive and at worst he was just a teenager. It [sending images] is referred to as sexting, and apparently it happens all the time. It is just how teenagers flirt these days."
However, it is not clear whether a police file was recorded for the girl who saved and shared the image. Under new legislation, if she had been over 18, the girl could have been convicted under the so called "revenge porn" law.
Introduced in April under the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015, Revenge Porn legislation makes it illegal to share private, sexual materials, either photos or videos, of another person without their consent and with the purpose of causing embarrassment or distress.
The National Police Chief's Council (NPCC) said police will always try to avoid criminalising young people in response to the new laws on 'sexting'.
Deputy Chief Constable Olivia Pinkney, NPCC Lead for Children and Young People, said: "Policing is about protecting the most vulnerable in society and children are children first and foremost.
"A new National Strategy for the Policing of Children and Young People was launched this year which highlights the importance of getting our response right and avoiding unnecessary criminalisation – especially where the behaviour can be dealt with more appropriately through other means.
"If agreed by those involved, schools and educational establishments have the ability to deal with situations as they see fit. If any party chooses to report the incident to police then the Home Office Counting Rules are clear that it must be recorded as a crime.
"Importantly however, the resolution of the incident and decision to investigate further remains at an officer's discretion. Further still, the decision to disclose this as part of associated checks in future life is one carefully considered by forces, in line with Home Office guidance, ensuring it is relevant and it's context outlined. Work is on-going with partners to ensure that this guidance is clear and applied in a consistent way.
"'Sexting' may seem like a harmless or normal activity but there are many risks involved. Once circulated, the sender loses all control of that image and can cause significant distress when it gets into wider hands. It is essential that we work, alone and alongside partners such as schools and families, to intervene early and prevent young people from becoming both the victims and perpetrators of crime."