ONLINE pornography is being blamed for a record number of sex crimes by under-18s in Scotland.

A total of 407 people were reported for rape, attempted rape, sexual assault or other sex crimes in 2015/16. That included 48 under-16s charged with rape or attempted rape.

Experts believe the rise of internet porn, which has given some young people a distorted view of sex and relationships, is to blame for the epidemic.

The Solicitor General Alison Di Rollo will stage a summit this week with delegates including Deputy First Minister John Swinney, police and children’s charities, to draft new ways of prosecuting and preventing such crimes involving young people.

A legal source said: “Juvenile sex offenders are not a new phenomenon but they have never been so common as they are today.

“We are struggling with the volume of cases and how to deal with them because children who commit these crimes have often been victims of some form of abuse themselves.

“When an adult commits rape, the criminal justice pathway is clear. When an 11-year-old commits rape, how do we handle that?

“Sadly, these sorts of cases are coming up far more frequently and it’s deeply concerning.”

In 2015/16, 120 youngsters were charged with rape or attempted rape, 113 with sexual assault and 167 with other sexual crimes. Seven 16 to 17-year-olds were reported for sending sexual messages.

The summit, entitled Children, Young People and Sexual Offending, is to be held in Glasgow on Friday.

Edinburgh-based charity The Reward Foundation, which talks to pupils about the risks of X-rated material, fears young minds are becoming desensitised to sexual violence.

Chief executive Mary Sharpe said: “Unless we face up to the reality of what the porn industry is covertly teaching our youngsters, the crime rate will continue to rise.”

The Crown Office said Mrs Di Rollo, the former head of its National Sex Crimes Unit, was “calling for a reduction in the number of cases where young people are subjected to, or engage in, sexual behaviours that require a criminal justice response”.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Mr Swinney will set out the importance of teaching young people about consent, dignity and respect and will hear the views of teachers and relevant organisations at the summit.”