Northern Ireland: Child protection expert backs change in indecent images law

Jim Gamble

A leading child protection expert in Northern Ireland has proposed revising indecent image laws to prevent children who take and distribute sexual photographs of themselves from being prosecuted.

Jim Gamble, former chief executive of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOPC), told the Belfast Telegraph that the law could be made “more intelligent” to prevent cyber-bullying and trauma.

He said: “If we decriminalise it the children will come forward to get help and fewer will self-harm or commit suicide, which is what happens when the child is left with no hope when they have shared an image.

“It is about the trauma they will have gone through while an investigation is going on and the message that sends out to other children.”

The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) does not pursue prosecution in the majority of cases involving children who have taken and distributed indecent images.

The PPS received 48 files relating to 79 child suspects of such offences between 1 March 2013 and 31 March 2015.

Of the 75 prosecution decisions made to that date, there were 66 decisions of no prosecution (88 per cent) and only one for prosecution (1 per cent).

Eight decisions (11 per cent) were for non-court diversions or cautions.

A spokesperson for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) said: “If young people are involved in sexting, it is essential that they receive the appropriate support rather than being dragged through the courts.”

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