Blackmail plot highlights 'sexting' peril
She was just 14, he only a year older.
She, in her naivety, sent him photos of herself naked. A few years later, and with some water under the bridge, he ended up with a conviction for blackmail.
Jamie Neil Darrell, 19, was sentenced to 240 hours' community work and 12 months' supervision and was required to attend alcohol and drug counselling after he was convicted of blackmail in the High Court at Christchurch last week.
According to the judgment, from Justice Graham Panckhurst, Darrell had been in a "friendship" with the 14-year-old girl for about a year when she sent him naked photos.
Four years later, in May last year, "and at a time when the friendship was no longer active", Darrell sent the girl an email and Skype message telling her she had 20 minutes to send new naked photos or he would put the existing images on the internet.
The girl told her father who went to police but in the meantime Darrell had uploaded nine of the naked images and sent the girl a second Skype message telling her hundreds of her friends would now be able to see the images.
He also said "enjoy your life and remember how much simpler this could have been".
He later deleted the page he had created for the images, but not before he was charged with blackmail.
Justice Panckhurst said "these were nasty offences because the complainant was vulnerable as a result of her immaturity when as a young girl, underage, she supplied naked images to you. But it was you who took advantage of her vulnerability and threatened her."
Darrell was given credit for his remorse and the judge acknowledged he had been going through a difficult period during the offending.
But the real message from the case was the danger of sexting (sending sexually explicit images via text or the internet). It's a situation "a number of people get themselves into", said Netsafe executive director Martin Cocker.
The introduction of smartphone apps such as Snapchat (where images are shared and deleted after a few seconds) and website ask.fm (where anonymous users can send abusive or sexually explicit messages to other users), has only increased the share of sexually explicit material between teens.
Cocker said the use of intimate images for blackmail was a "reasonably regular occurrence". "There is a lot of sexting and sending of adult images online."
Cocker said "technically" sending sexual images of children was illegal "so anyone who creates one is in theory breaking the law".
"In practical terms, a young person is unlikely to be prosecuted under that law for producing images and sending them to other young people.
"But as soon as they are distributed around, the probability that person will be held to account increases."
Julie Scanlon, editor of website kidspot.co.nz, said it was thought New Zealand would mirror Australia where up to 3 per cent of 13 to 24-year-olds have posted nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves and 4 per cent of teens have sent sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude images of themselves to someone else via text.
- © Fairfax NZ News