‘Sexting’ is so prolific in the Cootamundra Local Area Command in south-western New South Wales, one family has left the district after an image of their daughter went viral.
Youth Liaison Officer, Senior Constable Joe Camilleri, said police have destroyed seven mobiles belonging to young people recently as they contained inappropriate pictures, while the destruction of a further three phones is being considered.
“We’ve sought some professional advice from our people in Sydney and they can only give a 95 per cent guarantee that those images are removed,” he said.
These kids aren’t intentionally wanting to create child porn, but because of their age, that’s exactly what they’ve done and there are predators out there who would love to get these images and when they do go online, as we all know, you cannot retrieve them.Senior Constable Joe Camilleri
“So we had a test case go to court locally and the magistrate deemed that if we can’t guarantee 100 per cent the images are removed, then those phones will be destroyed.
“Sadly that message is stronger, than ending up with a criminal record.”
Senior Constable Camilleri said nude or semi-nude pictures of a person under the age of 18 is child pornography, and receiving and on-sending the image is a criminal offence.
He said Local Area Commanders have the power to authorise the destruction of phones, which are taken to Sydney and shredded into e-waste.
Senior Constable Camilleri said often young girls are sending images to their boyfriends, who then share the pictures when the relationship breaks down.
“One particular girl that I spoke to had to leave not only her school, but the family had to leave town because she was being propositioned constantly at school, because the boys thought if she was prepared to do that, than obviously she was willing to do other things, which wasn’t the case at all and she was devastated,” he said.
Senior Constable Camillieri has urged parents to talk about the issue with their children.
“I don’t think parents realise that their children could be doing this, until it happens and I can tell you, the parents I’ve spoken to are really shocked that their child was involved in this type of crime,” he said.
“These kids aren’t intentionally wanting to create child porn, but because of their age, that’s exactly what they’ve done and there are predators out there who would love to get these images and when they do go online, as we all know, you cannot retrieve them.
“They’re there forever and so there’s potential there to really harm your future.”
Senior Constable Camilleri said some children need a phone, but he has encouraged parents to consider purchasing mobiles that do not have access to the internet.
“Parents need to realise that they are in control, or are responsible, for their children and if a child’s got a mobile phone, they have the right to access that phone, look at the phone, look at what’s on it,” he said.
“They are the parents, most of the time the phones have been given to them by their parents anyway.”