Children, children

More than 6,000 cases involving children possessing or sending messages containing sexual images of themselves or others were recorded in the year to the end of last March.

Nov 8, 2017

More than 6,000 cases involving children possessing or sending messages containing sexual images of themselves or others were recorded in the year to the end of last March. This is an increase of a third on the previous year, and many of them involve children aged 14. Simon Bailey is both the chief constable of Norfolk Constabulary and the police spokesman on child protection, and he has leapt into the controversy by describing the increase as “concerning”. So far so good, but Mr Bailey has gone on to point out that “the bottom line is that sexting numbers just keep growing”. I don’t know if he has a proof-reader but it sounds he needs one. Last March also saw the Government announce that sex and relationship education is to be taught in all schools in England for the first time, but they may not be on the curriculum until 2019. This seems like a long time, both sex and relationships have been going on for a while and by then sexting is likely to be outdated and a new digital phenomenon is likely to be filling headlines and the subject of inquiries into why agencies failed to keep up. The increases in reports of sexting have been accompanied by a drop in the number of charges, from what seems a very low 150 in 2014/15 to a remarkably low 63 in 2016/17. Mr Bailey says that forces are trying to not criminalise children, so this is probably seen as an achievement. If this approach works, we can expect increases in knife crime and reductions in arrests to be explained as part of a strategy to avoid criminalising knifemen (and women). Continuing the theme of decriminalising sexual offences, Home Secretary Amber Rudd has called for MPs guilty of harassment or abuse to face potential dismissal from Parliament (rather than get locked up). Theresa May’s deputy, Damian Green, is also facing calls to ‘step aside’ while he is investigated for alleged inappropriate behaviour towards a young activist, and former senior Metropolitan Police Service Assistant Commissioner Bob Quick has alleged that pornographic material was found on one of Mr Green’s computers during an inquiry into government leaks in 2008. Readers will remember that Mr Quick was once Britain’s most senior counter-terrorism officer, and was forced to stand down in 2009 after he came under huge pressure from politicians because he was photographed carrying sensitive documents as he arrived for a meeting in Downing Street. This resulted in a major anti-terror operation being rushed forward. This was not Mr Quick’s first encounter with controversy and the Right Honourable member for Ashford. He had earlier apologised for an outburst in which he accused senior Conservatives of leaking a story about his wife running a luxury car hire firm from their home and, would you believe it, he was also criticised for sanctioning the arrest of, yes, Damian Green, during an inquiry into Whitehall leaks. Mr Quick has denied leaking the pornography story, but he stands by it. We know that time is a great healer, what we don’t know is what Mr Quick will have for his supper, but we can guess that it will be eaten cold, very cold. Yours, Stitch

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