The boy, known only as CL, claimed Greater Manchester Police‘s retention of crime reports on the incidents was a “disproportionate interference” with his right to privacy.
Lawyers for the teenager, who was aged 14 and 15 at the time of the incidents, argued the “blanket and indiscriminate approach to recording personal details without regard to the fact that CL was a minor” was unlawful.
But, giving judgment in London on Thursday, Lord Justice Hickinbottom said: “The interference with the claimant’s right to privacy is modest” and “the retention of the information in respect of each incident is well justified."
CL’s barrister, Amanda Weston QC, said at a hearing last year the potential impact on the boy of the police retaining the reports was “immense and likely to have a number of consequences for him”.
The boy was said to be particularly concerned that information contained in the reports could be disclosed if a potential employer sought an enhanced criminal record check before offering him a job.
But Lord Justice Hickinbottom said “the three reports (if true) fit a pattern of behaviour in the claimant that, over time, was increasingly serious”, and “the public interest considerations justify the retention of the personal information of the claimant”.
He also found “each element of recording, retaining and disclosing non-conviction information by the police is the subject of intensive regulation and guidance, which rightly includes a myriad of safeguards”.
Those safeguards, the judge added, meant “the system is not arguably unlawful nor does it constitute a risk of unlawfulness”.
CL’s application for permission to appeal against the decision had been refused, Lord Justice Hickinbottom announced.
CL was said to have swapped explicit photos with two girls at his school, which led to a police report being filed after CL allegedly passed on one girl’s photograph to another student.
Another girl later alleged the boy had threatened to tell people they had slept together if she refused to send indecent pictures of herself.
Under guidance issued by the College of Policing, crime reports in relation to “public protection matters”, including offences of distributing an indecent image of a child or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity, may be retained until the subject reaches the age of 100, with a review of their retention to be carried out every ten years.
Sexting cases involving children have more than doubled in two years, according to police figures.
At the time the figures were released, Simon Bailey, National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for child protection, said: “There is a worrying upward trend in children sharing sexual images, particularly regarding children who pass on indecent images of others.
“Sharing and possessing these images is against the law. Once an image is shared with others it can cause deep embarrassment and distress.”
He added: “Forces are risk assessing every case to ensure we are not unnecessarily stigmatising children and saddling them with a criminal record.
“But there will always be a criminal investigation where we see that young people are being coerced, exploited or blackmailed.”
Additional reporting by Press Association