STUDENTS
03/09/2015 09:23 BST | Updated 03/09/2015 10:59 BST

'Terrifying' Case Emerges Of A Boy 'Too Young' To Be Revenge Porn Victim, So Instead Criminalised For Snapchat Selfie

The Snapchat Inc. application (app) is seen on an on an Apple Inc. iPhone 5s displayed for a photograph in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015. Snapchat Inc. is raising money that could value the company at as much as $19 billion. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Bloomberg via Getty Images
The Snapchat Inc. application (app) is seen on an on an Apple Inc. iPhone 5s displayed for a photograph in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015. Snapchat Inc. is raising money that could value the company at as much as $19 billion. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A case where a schoolboy was "humiliated" and deemed a criminal after a naked selfie he sent to a girl was circulated around his school has been dubbed "terrifying" by lawyers.

However, if the teenager had been 18 or over, he would have been a victim of "revenge porn", and those who forwarded on his image would have been prosecuted.

The 14-year-old has had his details added to a police intelligence database after police decided he had been making and distributing indecent images.

Although the boy has not been formally charged, his details will be stored for up to 10 years, although has not been charged, after the incident was flagged to his school's police officer. The girl who circulated the image, which was sent via Snapchat, has also had her details added to the database.

Claire Gill, a partner at law firm Carter-Ruck, told The Huffington Post UK the case would "terrify" parents and children alike.

"Were these children adults, both the boy, and the girl who sent on the image of the boy to her friends, could face prosecution," she said.

"Education, not criminalisation, is the best way to stop children disseminating sexual images of each other. It is about teaching children about the harm and distress that can be caused by circulating these images on social media, and making sure they understand the risks with the technology and social media platforms.

"Most kids who do this do so without thinking about any of the consequences."

Gill added: "This boy has learnt his lesson the hard way."

The mother of the boy, who lives in the north of England, was told by a police officer the incident could be flagged up in a CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) check if her son ever wanted a job working with children.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, she said her son who was "at best naive, at worst just being a teenager", had been "humiliated".

Jessica Taplin, CEO of Get Connected, a youth charity providing free helpline service for under 25s, said the neither teen should have been criminalised.

"Common sense has to prevail and it has not in this instance," she told The Huffington Post UK. "Demonising a young teenager for experimenting and taking a photograph of himself and sending it to a girl of a similar age, who he no doubt 'fancies' seems to me incredibly knee jerk and unhelpful.

"The boy has made a poor decision, but ultimately he is also the victim, having to deal with the subsequent bullying & embarrassment caused by the dispersal of the image around his school and community."

Taplin continued: "The age of consent laws are there to protect children, they are not there to prosecute under-16s who have mutually consenting sexual activity.

"There is a very big difference between this sort of exploratory behaviour and the sort of behaviour that warrants police intervention.

"The school and police should be attempting to protect the boy by ensuring the image is deleted, and educating his peers so they do not share such images because of the pain and hurt it can cause."

Last year, a similar case made headlines when a schoolgirl received a police caution after texting an explicit photograph of herself to her boyfriend, and he forwarded to his friends after they rowed.

Police were called in because both were under 18 and so were committing an offence of distributing an indecent image of a child.

Taplin called for the decision to be overturned, adding: "The real danger behind sexting is what it can lead to for the children involved - bullying, anxiety, abuse, intimidation and isolation, there a causal links between these issues and acute problems such as anxiety, depression, self-harming or suicidal thoughts.

"Rather than penalising children who are attempting to “mimic” the over sexualised behaviour of society around them, surely we need to address the question of why has “sexting” become such an issue for today’s young people."

The boy in question, who asked to remain anonymous, said he knew some people at his school still had the image, and he felt "embarrassed and a bit intimidated" by how the police and his school had dealt with the image.

He told Radio 4: "It is just annoying really. Something that I did when I was 14 that could reflect badly in the future."