Assistant Commissioner Hewitt:
You look at all the circumstances. When the figures are produced on other sexual offending, for example, there will often be a lot of criticism levelled at us about people who get cautioned. We will, on occasion, caution people for rape offences, but if your victim and your offender have mental health issues or a mental impairment, we will take decisions based on all the circumstances. You are looking at the circumstances of the victim and of the offender, and on that basis, you will make a judgment. If you have an adult offender and a child victim, that is clearly an aggravating factor, but you will also have mitigating factors, as I said. If you have two 15-year-olds or 14-year-olds, there are mitigating factors around that, but as you alluded to in your question, if it emerges that that 14-year-old offender has done it on numerous occasions, or there is a repeated pattern of behaviour, again, that would clearly be an aggravating factor.
We would then work with the Crown Prosecution Service to identify what the correct disposal and the correct charge would be—probably the charge would be the same—and whether we would dispose of it in a charge way or whether we would use some other form of control. It is difficult to come up with a clear line. It is about individual cases and looking at the circumstances, including the nature of the offence, the nature of the victim and the circumstances of the victim and the offender. When you work against those three areas, in the centre of those criteria or questions, you come up with what you think the most appropriate position is.
We are facing that a lot with people who are sharing images. If a teenager takes an image of another teenager, having possession of that is an offence. Once you pass that around, that is another offence. We have to constantly ask the question, proportionately, what is the right thing to do? Is that the ill-advised behaviour of a 15-year-old who needs to learn some lessons and change what they do, or are they someone who needs to end up in the criminal justice system? That is a constant balancing act, particularly when you bring juveniles into play. Equally, you could get someone who does it and who has a mental health condition. They may be a 30-year-old, but they may not have the capacity of a 30-year-old. Every case will have to be dealt with on its own merits.