THE number of revenge porn offences reported to police has tripled across North Yorkshire in the past three years, with the youngest recorded victim just 12 years old.

Revenge porn is the sharing of private sexual photos and videos of a person without their permission to cause humiliation. Those found guilty can be jailed for up to two years.

But while the number of crimes increased in 2017, the number of people convicted plummeted.

Last year 45 victims came forward to report revenge porn offences to police - compared to 18 in 2016 and 15 in 2015.

However, last year only two people were convicted of the offence.

Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire Julia Mulligan said the true number of victims is likely to be far higher, but “flawed” laws make it difficult for lawbreakers to be prosecuted.

She said: “I suspect the real number of victims is far higher than reported, and even then badly worded laws makes offences difficult to prosecute.

“I will however be urging North Yorkshire Police to ensure the appropriate training is in place to ensure all cases are dealt with properly and appropriately.”

Mrs Mulligan said the problem with the current law was the need to demonstrate intent to cause harm, which she felt was challenging.

She said: “That’s why I think there have been so few prosecutions, because it’s actually very difficult to prosecute. We think the law should be strengthened to remove the intent to cause distress because that’s difficult to prove in court.”

The law came into force in 2015 and since then 78 crimes have been reported to North Yorkshire Police, with 10 of those victims under the age of 18.

The NSPCC has called for social media companies to do more to stop revenge porn being shared.

Tony Stower, NSPCC head of child safety online, said: “It is shocking that young children are becoming victims of revenge porn and underlines that it is time for social media companies to be held to account for the material on their sites.

“Sharing nude selfies or videos can put young people at risk of bullying by peers or being targeted by adult sex offenders, so it’s vital that parents talk to their children and that young people feel empowered to say no to sexting requests.

“The NSPCC has created a guide for families about the risks of sexting, what the law says, and what to do if their child has shared a nude image that is being circulated online or among their peers.”

The oldest victim to come forward to North Yorkshire Police was aged 43. And although the crime aims to cause distress to victims, a legal loophole means revenge porn is not treated as a sexual offence, so victims do not have the right to lifelong anonymity and can be publicly named.

In 2015, Mrs Mulligan supported a campaign with revenge porn victim Keeley Richards-Shaw, who was named by national newspapers after her ex-boyfriend became the first person to be sentenced under new laws for sharing photographs without her knowledge after their relationship ended.

A survey carried out by Mrs Mulligan found 67 per cent of those asked said the lack of anonymity was a deterrent to reporting offences, and 80 per cent felt revenge porn was a sexual offence.

She said: “I am also committed to my campaign to change revenge porn laws to better support victims. Fifteen thousand people have already signed my #nomorenaming petition, and a survey I am due to launch soon will hopefully provide the evidence we need to finally change the law.

“If anyone has been a victim and hasn’t felt able to come forward to the police, please feel free to contact me to talk about your experiences if you would like, and even help with the campaign.”

A spokesman for North Yorkshire Police said: “We treat such offending extremely seriously, and those convicted face a maximum sentence of two years in prison.

“There has been an increase in reports of revenge porn nationally, and this is also the case in North Yorkshire.

“It is likely that the awareness of this offence has grown, and victims feel increasingly confident in coming forward and reporting incidents to the police.

“We understand it can be difficult to talk about this issue, but if you have been affected by revenge porn, please contact North Yorkshire Police so we can offer you support and take appropriate action.”

Victims can call the Revenge Porn Helpline on 0345 6000459 or for more information from the NSPCC call 0808 8005000.