POLICE say that three teenagers who caused controversy after dressing up as golliwogs for a town’s gala will not face criminal charges.

The three secondary pupils – two boys and a girl – spoke to police after a picture was circulated online of them 'blacked up' for the summer parade in Wick, Caithness.

It has emerged that police were contacted because of the photograph being circulated on social media, and not because complaints were made at the gala, as had been previously reported.

The picture from the event shows the three youngsters with black curly wigs, and black faces with white around their eyes. All were wearing distinctive red, blue, white and black costumes.

Officers wanted to speak to the trio over fears they faced a "backlash" because of the picture's negative reception online, and to discuss matters regarding racial sensitivities with them.

Pictures of the trio had been posted on Facebook and Twitter, as well as local website Caithness.org, and the incident had generated considerable debate.

But none of the three faced arrest or prosecution for dressing up as Golliwogs as no specific complaint was made to police at the time.

A source close to the case said: "There has been some confusion over this story. The initial call to police was from someone who saw the picture online, and wished to draw their attention to it.

"No one at the gala contacted Police Scotland to report the matter. Officers wanted to speak to the three young people, who are of school age, because of some of the comments made about the picture on social media and to reinforce that their conduct could be offensive to some people."

The insider added: "It would be different if these youngsters had dressed up in this way and specifically taunted a person from an ethnic minority. That would be a race hate crime and would be dealt with accordingly. But they did not do that and no complaints were made."

A Police Scotland spokesman said: "On Monday 27th July 2015, police in Wick received a call from a member of the public seeking to raise awareness of what they deemed as possible inappropriate behaviour at a public event known as the Wick Gala, which took place on Saturday 25th July in the town centre. Suitable advice was provided to the caller.

"Officers have also been in contact with the charity event organisers to provide advice on guidance for future events of a similar nature."