Responding to Sexting and Student on Student Sexual Abuse

By Alistair Macpherson, Corney & Lind Lawyers Director

The following is a PowerPoint presentation delivered by Alistair Macpherson for School and College staff. Adapted for the World Wide Web.

Case Studies Courtesy of Google

Newtown, USA (May 2016)

  • Five students charged with sharing nude pictures and videos of their classmates, following a High School’s sexting investigation.
  • School administrators learned that several boys and girls were “sexting” — sharing nude photos and videos of themselves and their classmates — through smartphone applications like Snapchat, FaceTime, iMessage and Kik.
  • Three students had charged $10 to $20 to share each picture or video with classmates. Those teens were arrested and 20 others were referred a juvenile review board for sharing those images with friends.
  • Two students were charged with misdemeanor counts of possession of child pornography by a minor.

South Australia (ABC News, 2016)

Sergeant Andy Stott, Limestone Coast Manager of the Crime Prevention section:

  • Underage students engaging in the act of sexting did not realise the severity or impacts of such an offence.
  • “It’s non-stop. We have many, many offences and occurrences happening in our schools on a daily basis”.
  • Under changes to legislation being drafted by the South Australian Government, a new filming and sexting offence would be created for those under the age of 17, but under current laws, minors who ‘sext’ could face child porn pornography charges.
  • “That’s a highly offensive matter. It’s a major indictable offence, which is very serious, up there with the biggest and best of them as far as crimes go,” he said.
  • Even in cases which did not go to court, police could seize and destroy any device on which they believed offending images may be saved

Queensland (ABC News, 2016)

  • Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council (QSAC) study revealed 3,035 people were dealt with between 2006 and 2016 for child pornography offences.
  • Of those, 1,470 were aged between 10 and 16 and their offences mostly related to underage sexting — filming or distributing explicit material of people under 17.

Australia Wide – Multi-School Website/Ring (2016)

  • 70 Australian schools targeted by a ring of teen boys and young men secretly swapping and exchanging graphic sexual images of female students and other non-consenting women.
  • More than 2000 images posted or traded by Australian members since the group began operating in December last year.
  • Hundreds of individual names have appeared on “wanted” lists, including the names of sisters and entire high school friendship circles.
  • Once a girl’s name appears on a list, other members of the group then “contribute” by posting identifying information about the intended victim, such as her full name, face, school, home address, and phone number, along with directives like “Go get her boys!”
  • Lists published of “schools” targeted showed it was Australia-wide

Is it a Criminal Offence?

Child Exploitation Material under the Criminal Code (QLD)

“child exploitation material” – material that, in a way likely to cause offence to a reasonable adult, describes or depicts a person who is, or apparently is, a child under 16 years—

(a) in a sexual context, including for example, engaging in a sexual activity; or
(b) in an offensive or demeaning context; or
(c) being subjected to abuse, cruelty or torture.

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