The government is currently working with other agencies to ensure that it’s a well-known fact that looking at sexual images or videos of those under 18 is illegal. This is the case even if you were under the impression that they looked older. These images are of real children and real young people and viewing them causes further harm.
If you come across any sexual images of under 18s, they should be reported to the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF).
The term ‘indecent’ can include any sexual activity whether it’s penetrative or non-penetrative. The term ‘making’ means accessing, opening, downloading or storing online content. ‘Sharing’ means sending, offering to share on a platform, possessing with a view to distributing or uploading to a site for others to access.
Any involvement with indecent images is not taken lightly by prosecutors. Contrary to how it may be perceived, the offence of ‘making indecent images’ is not the same as producing images by taking photographs or videos yourself. If you’re part of an indecent images investigation, you may hear either of these terms used during your case.
To help you to understand what the outcome might be as a result of being convicted of an indecent images offence, we’ve detailed the sentencing guidelines below. Please note that a competent and experienced solicitor may be able to get any prison sentence reduced or even avoid it entirely.
Being involved with indecent images is a sexual offence, and for those found guilty and convicted, the punishment can be harsh, depending on how obscene the images are judged to be.
It’s important to note that prosecutors will need to prove that you deliberately and intentionally downloaded, made, shared or distributed the images. In some situations, the accused has no idea that an image of this nature is on their computer. Only when they get arrested and are suddenly at the centre of an uncomfortable investigation will they become aware. In some cases, ‘cached’ indecent images are found in the memory of a device. Or there may still be unallocated space after the file(s) has been deleted and it’s this that is used as evidence in court.
A complicated string of police meetings, interventions and engagements will typically occur during a full investigation. All this will put the accused into a state of terror and overwhelm. Now is the time when a criminal solicitor with experience in indecent image cases will make all the difference for the accused. Providing guidance and support, they can tell the accused what to say and do during any police interview, communication and at court.
There are three levels of seriousness for indecent images, which are:
Category A – images depicting penetrative sexual activity, sexual activity with an animal or sadism.
Category B – images depicting non-penetrative sexual activity.
Category C – indecent images outside of categories A or B.
Where there is more than one image, the prosecution will categorise the photos into the above framework with this being used by the court with regards to sentencing.
The court will also consider what the images have been used for and how. Were they used for possession, distribution or production? On this page, we will explore sentencing for indecent images. You may find sentencing for other related offences by heading over to our sentencing index.
Sentences for indecent images range from community orders to prison sentences of up to six years for producing indecent images. The severity of the punishment will depend upon how many photos you have of the following categories:
Category A image is likely to result in being given a prison sentence, and sentences typically range between 6 months and 36 months.
Category B images is likely to result in being a sentence between 6 months of community service to 18 months imprisonment.
Category C images is likely to result in being given a community order but could extend to 6 months imprisonment.
Depending on what you are convicted of, your name may be added to the Sexual Offenders Register.
The information that judges are given with regards to sentencing are only guidelines, and each case will be looked at individually. One of the factors judges consider in every case of this nature is the defendant’s level of genuine remorse.
The following factors are considered when the court decides which sentence to give. They will look at:
Certain aspects of a case are known as the mitigating aspects which can influence the sentence that a judge gives. In indecent images cases, they may include:
In recent years, several changes have been made to the sentencing system in the UK to save the court time and cost and to protect witnesses from the stress of needlessly going through a trial. For offenders aged 18 and over, pleading guilty early on in a case can reduce a sentence by as much as one third (maximum). The later the plea is entered, the smaller the reduction.
‘Early on’ refers to ‘the first stage of the proceedings’ and means anytime up to and including the first hearing at the Magistrates Court or Crown Court for indictable offences.
If a plea is entered 14 days after the first hearing, for example, the maximum level of reduction is just 20% or one-fifth of the sentence. For indictable offences, the limit for a guilty plea to be made is within 28 days after the prosecutor has stated compliance with section 3 of CPIA 1996 and serving disclosure; although the decision is ultimately in the hands of the Judge who has the discretion to apply whatever credit is deemed appropriate.
After these times there is a sliding scale of credit applied. This goes down to one-tenth on the first day of the trial and to zero if entered during the course of the trial. In theory, the ten per cent could be given if the plea is issued after the opening speeches on the first day, but prior to any witness evidence being heard.
If the accused does not want to plead guilty, then it’s important for the solicitor to regularly inform the court throughout the trial of the reasons why the client’s plea is not guilty.
A court can also make ancillary orders on a defendant if they are found guilty and convicted of an offence. These are extra elements that can be added to a sentence and include additional restrictions or requirements that affect a dependent’s finances, property or activity.
The range of ancillary orders for indecent image convictions include the following:
Deprivation and Forfeiture
Prosecutors typically request that indecent images of children are forfeited, even if the case is dropped. The police can legally forfeit data without needing to look at every file in question on a hard drive if they have reasonable grounds to believe that such images are contained.
Public Interest and Out of Court Disposals
Usually, a prosecution will take place unless there are public interest factors that outweigh those in favour.
In such cases, the police may administer a caution in conjunction with the Crown Prosecution Service. Each case is decided upon on its individual facts and circumstances.
In some cases, a conditional caution may be given, although it’s less likely. The starting point on sentencing guidelines is a high-level community order, whereas the starting point on a conditional caution is at a medium level or below.
The role of the prosecutors is to consider whether it’s in the public interest to prosecute or use an out of court disposal when those involved are youth offenders. This situation is likely when a child shares images of themselves, depending on the facts and circumstances of the case.
Engaging a sexual offences solicitor who has deep experience and knowledge of this area of the law, means you will have access to information on the typical sentencing for the offence with which you may have been charged.
In addition, the court may demand payment of the following if the accused is convicted:
Payment of costs applied for by the prosecutors
Although the police meet some of the costs involved in the prosecution, the costs of investigation are typically sought from the convicted. These may include the costs of:
The term victims’ surcharges can be explained as paying compensation to a fund for victims and can range between £20 to £170 depending on what sentence you were given at conviction.
How sentences can be added to national information databases
There are several national databases that hold information about individuals and any allegations made about them, their criminal and court records. These include the DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) which was previously known as the CRB (Criminal Record Bureau) and the Police National Computer (PNC). Depending on what happened, whether the accused is convicted, and what sentence was issued, the accused may be added to one or all these databases. Their purpose is to provide information to potential employers and to regulate the ability to take part in certain activities.
If your case progresses to court and you are convicted of handling indecent images, your conviction will be noted on your CRB / police record. The period of the endorsement will depend on the nature and length of your sentence.
Below are details on how long you will be listed as holding a criminal record if convicted. This is something very serious to consider when it comes to future employment. The term ‘spent’ refers to when your name can be removed from the databases.
(the time it takes for the sentence to become ‘spent’)
|Sentence||Adult (aged 18+) at time of conviction||Young person (aged under 18) at time of conviction|
|Prison sentences of more than 4 years||Sentence is never spent||Sentence is never spent|
|Prison sentences of more than 2.5 years (30 months) but less than 4 years||Sentence length 7 years||Sentence length 3.5 years|
|Prison sentences of more than 6 months but less than 2.5 years (30 months)||Sentence length +4 years||Sentence length +2 years|
|Prison sentences of less than 6 months||Sentence length + 2 years||Sentence length +18 months|
|Conditional Discharge||Length of order||Length of order|
|Conditional Caution||3 months||3 months|
|Simple Caution / Youth Caution||None – immediately ‘spent’||None – immediately ‘spent’|
|Other Including Compensation Order, Supervision Order, Bind Over, Hospital Order||Length of the order / once compensation is paid||Length of the order / once compensation is paid|
In cases of this nature, sentencing can be influenced by the lawyer. The court can be convinced by using arguments such as there will be damage to a business, loss of job or loss of revenue to an employer for the absence of the employee. If there is a spouse disability or dependency, then the lawyer should put this forward to influence the outcome more positively. It’s important to stress the fact that the accused can be rehabilitated and attend a sex offender treatment programme as an alternative to a short or moderate-term custodial sentence.
Below are notification periods for the convicted to be included in the Violent and Sex Offender Register (ViSOR).
If you are accused of an indecent images offence, our specialist team of criminal solicitors can provide you with in-depth advice in a clear and concise manner. Our extensive understanding of the Protection of Children Act puts us head and shoulders above the rest when representing those who are accused of offences in this complex area of law. Our criminal solicitors will apply their knowledge, skill and expertise in finding the best strategy and solutions to defend your case. We work alongside our cybercrime lawyers to challenge technological issues and contest the prosecution’s allegations.
Our criminal solicitors understand that accusations of indecent images making or sharing will cause you a tremendous amount of confusion and anxiety. With so much negative press surrounding sexual offences, it is understandable you will feel stressed, worried and afraid to seek help. We are confined to the strict rules of the Solicitors Regulation Authority which offers you the protection of confidentiality. We have committed our lives to the defence of those prosecuted by the State and we promise never to pass judgment. All our Criminal Solicitors are professionals and absolutely dedicated to achieving the best possible results for our clients.
Our indecent images specialists are criminal solicitors that provide representation throughout police interviews and at all stages of the court process. As with any offence, the earlier our team are involved in the process, the higher the likelihood of success.
We have access to the United Kingdom’s leading forensic experts. We can instruct these experts to re-analyse your devices which have been seized by the police. This meticulous analysis frequently uncovers inconsistencies in the digital evidence presented by the prosecution and ensures all avenues of your defence is explored.
Our team truly work with the mindset that you are innocent until proven guilty. We will listen to your instructions intently and advise you on the best course of action from the police station stage and throughout the Court process. Once instructed by you, we will put pressure on the investigators to ensure they fulfil their duties of investigating expeditiously. The earlier in the process we are instructed, the more effective our representation will be.
Categorising the images
Once indecent images are located on the electronic device, the police will categorise them as an A, B or C image – depending on the nature of the image or video. To prove the charge of downloading indecent images, it is for the prosecution to demonstrate that you knowingly had custody and control of the images stored on a device and you were able to retrieve the images from the device. It is essential you contact our team of experts as early as possible so we can engage the UK’s leading experts to analyse the devices where the Indecent Images were found.
The experts we use can recategorise indecent images if we dispute the prosecution’s categorisation. They can explore numerous avenues that can prove essential to support your case. They can provide evidence on where the Indecent Images were found when they were downloaded and how many times they have been viewed. They can often confirm whether they were found as part of a search or whether they came into existence on the device following a pop-up from a legitimate legal website.
If you’d like to have a no-obligation chat with us before you instruct us to take your case, then call us today.
In addition to giving you a free consultation, we can also represent you at the police station if you’ve been arrested. We can look at securing your legal aid.
Please contact us and ask to speak to our indecent images lawyers and sexual offences solicitors to arrange a meeting in person, online or by telephone. If you prefer, you can WhatsApp us from the link you will find at the bottom banner if you open this page on your mobile phone device.
Get in touch with us now for indecent images offences legal help.