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Indecent Images Articles

How many Indecent Images cases get dropped in the UK?

If you’re reading this, it’s likely that you or someone you care about is under investigation for an indecent images crime – or has even been charged with one. This can be a daunting and confusing time, so we’ve put together this article to help answer some of the most common questions we get about how these cases play out. Keep reading to learn more about crimes relating to indecent images, how many indecent images cases get dropped in the UK, what might cause a case to get dropped, and what your options are if you find yourself in this situation.

What are indecent images offences?

In the UK, there are a few different types of offences that can be classified as relating to indecent images. These include:

  • making or distributing indecent images – this includes simply downloading an image or sharing images via social media or email
  • possessing indecent images – for example, if you have them saved on your computer or phone.
  • producing indecent images of children – this includes taking or sharing photos or videos of children in sexualized situations, even if the child is fully clothed.

All of these offences are very serious and can carry heavy penalties, including prison time. Exactly which offence you will be charged with depends on numerous factors, including the factual circumstances of your arrest, the evidence collected, the number of images you possessed/distributed/made etc. and whether other people were involved.

What is the sentence for indecent images offences?

The sentence you will receive for an indecent images offence depends on the exact offence you are charged with, but generally speaking in indecent images cases, the punishment ranges from community orders to prison sentences of up to six years (the harsher punishments are reserved for the more serious crimes, such as producing indecent images). One factor the judge looks at is the number of images you possessed/distributed/made in the following categories:

  • Category A images are likely to result in a prison sentence, and sentences typically range between 6 months and 36 months.
  • Category B images are likely to result in a sentence between 6 months of community service to 18 months imprisonment.
  • Category C images are likely to result in a community order but could extend to 6 months imprisonment.

Your name may also be added to the Sexual Offenders Register.

Can you avoid having your name put on the Sexual Offenders Register?

If you are given a community order, you will not have to go on the Sexual Offenders Register provided that you comply with the terms of your order. However, if you are given a prison sentence or an immediate custodial sentence (even if it is suspended), your name will be added to the Sexual Offenders Register.

Unfortunately, there is no way to stop your name being put on the register if you are convicted.

What are the consequences of being put on the Sexual Offenders Register?

The Sexual Offenders Register is a list of people who have been convicted of sexual offences. It is used by the police to monitor and track sex offenders in the community.

If you are put on the register, you will have to notify the police of your name, address, date of birth and national insurance number. You will also have to tell the police if you change your name or address, or if you are going to be spending time at an address other than your own for more than 7 days (including holidays).

If you fail to comply with the notification requirements, you can be fined or sent to prison for up to 5 years.

Being on the Sexual Offenders Register can have a number of other consequences, including:

  • making it difficult to find employment
  • making it difficult to travel, as some countries will not allow you to enter if you are on the register
  • making it difficult to rent accommodation
  • impacting your personal relationships

How many people are convicted with indecent images offences each year?

In 2020, there were 4,762 prosecutions relating to child abuse images across England and Wales. Of those, 2,385 ended in a conviction, which is just over 50% of all cases. This is fairly typical of indecent images cases, but represents a lower conviction rate than the overall conviction rate.

This means that on average, it is harder to prove guilt in indecent images cases than it is in cases concerning other crimes. Indeed, between 2013 and 2021, the conviction rate in England and Wales was about 82 percent in Magistrates’ courts and about 79 percent in the Crown courts.

How many indecent images cases get dropped in the UK each year?

There are no exact numbers on how many indecent images cases get dropped every year, but we do know that a fair number of them do not make it to trial. This is likely for a variety of reasons, including:

  • the police investigation does not produce enough evidence to charge someone with an offence
  • the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decides there is not enough evidence to prosecute, even if the police believed there is
  • the defence provides new evidence that causes the CPS to reconsider its decision
  • the defendant pleads guilty to a lesser offence
  • the case is thrown out of court for technical legal reasons (such as impropriety in the police investigation, for example)

What might cause an indecent images case to get dropped in one situation might not apply the same way in another, so unfortunately there is little value in comparing cases on this subject. The best thing to do is engage an experienced criminal defence solicitor to assess your case and figure out the most likely way of having it dropped before it reaches trial.

Are there any defences to indecent images cases?

Once your case goes to trial, it is unlikely to get dropped unless new evidence comes to light or there is a technical legal reason why the case cannot proceed (such as you not being able to get a fair trial if, for example, a newspaper runs a hate campaign against you and the judge thinks the jury would be biased against you for that reason).

The only way to get out of an indecent images charge once the charge goes to trial, therefore, is if you can raise a valid defence to the charge.

Possible defence strategies to get out of an indecent images charge include:

  • claiming the image was not indecent (this is a high burden as the courts will look at the image from the perspective of a reasonable person)
  • claiming you did not know the subject of the photo was under 18 (for example, if they looked older than they were)
  • claiming you had a legitimate reason for possessing the image (for example, you are a medical professional and were studying an anatomy textbook)
  • claiming the image was part of your work as a journalist or academic and you had a public interest defence
  • claiming the image was sent to you unsolicited and you took reasonable steps to get rid of it as soon as possible

If a judge accepts one of these defences, you may be found not guilty of the offence. However, if the judge does not accept your defence, you will be convicted and will likely face a prison sentence.

There is, however, one last approach you can take to try to reduce any sentence you are given. This is called ‘raising mitigating arguments’ and it basically means that you accept that you are guilty, but you give some other extenuating circumstance as to why you committed the crime in the hope the judge will take mercy on you and give you a shorter sentence.

What mitigating factors might apply to an indecent images case?

The word “mitigating” usually refers to a factor that lessens the severity of punishment for a crime. In indecent images cases, a judge may reduce the length of your sentence if:

  • the defendant is mentally ill and could not fully understand their actions
  • the defendant is particularly young and, again, did not realise how serious their actions were
  • the defendant was themselves subject to abuse as a child and has ‘learned’ that behaviour
  • the defendant shows genuine remorse for what has happened
  • the defendant has been, or agrees to go, to a rehabilitative or educational program to help with any sexual dysfunction that contributes to such unlawful behaviour
  • the defendant has proven good character and references
  • this is the first offence committed by the defendant and the likelihood of repeat offending is low

Where to get more help with indecent images cases?

If you need help with a pending or potential indecent images case, get in touch with the experts at Stuart Miller Solicitors today. Our team has decades’ worth of experience in this field and can help you navigate matters with as little impact on your personal and professional life as possible. We might even be able to get your case dropped before it reaches trial, saving you the worry, stress and expense of a criminal trial. Contact us today to find out more.


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