McHale & Co. Solicitors Blog

Immature teenage schoolboy behaviour or recordable crime?

The new school year has barely got underway with a story about a boy ‘sexting’ a female peer hitting the headlines recently. (See )

The boy, aged fourteen, had taken a naked photo of himself in his bedroom and sent it via a mobile app called ‘Snapchat’ to a girl, who had then saved the photo and forwarded it to other pupils at the same school.

The school found out and referred the matter to its school police officer, who in turn spoke to the boy who admitted what he had done. The boy was not arrested or interviewed formally under caution but the incident was recorded as a crime.

Apart from having to live with the (admittedly self-inflicted) embarrassment over the whole incident, the boy had to face the more serious consequences that due to the nature of the recorded behaviour, his future career prospects could be adversely affected should it be disclosed to potential employers.

Whilst there is provision for the boy to have it removed from a future Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check, should his behaviour have been recorded in the first place?

The recording of reported incidents at schools as crimes is governed by a protocol in Annex B of the Crime Recording General Rules (CRGR) which came into force in April this year.

Under its provisions, the school’s decision to bring the matter to the police’s attention meant that there was no option but for the police to record the matter as a crime against the boy. Reporting the matter to the police was apparently in line with the school having adopted a policy in relation to sexting throughout the school.

Should the school have taken this decision or dealt with the incident under its own disciplinary rules? Was this nothing more than a very foolish teenage prank which backfired? Was it so serious so as to effectively ‘criminalise’ this young boy and tarnish his reputation for years to come?

On the other hand, how would a parent whose child had received the photo felt? Could the boy’s actions be a sign of more sinister tendencies in the future? Would the school have faced criticism if it had not taken this approach?

Opinions undoubtedly will remain divided - it has never been easier in this digital age to record and globally distribute unsavoury material, whether it is in photographic, written or even video form; what might only have been witnessed by a small group privately once can now be shared by all almost immediately.

As it stands, as long as the necessary criteria are fulfilled, the police do not have any discretion in recording crimes against individuals in the same situation as the boy in the news. Should this position be reviewed?

We would encourage parents of children who have carried out any of the sort of the behaviour complained of to seek advice and to attempt to persuade the school not to go down the police route, especially if there is no complaint from the alleged victim/parent of the alleged victim. If you need specialist advice call the experts on 0161 928 3848 or email

Categories: Criminal Defence

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