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Possessing indecent images of children is an offence. The law is driven under section 1 of the Protection of Children Act 1978.

What is the sentence for possession of indecent images in 2024?

If you or somebody you know is being investigated or has been charged with possession of indecent images, it’s essential to seek early legal advice and guidance. There is a chance that you can avoid being sent to prison and separated from your family and loved ones.

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If you or somebody you know is being investigated or has been charged with possession of indecent images, it’s essential to seek early legal advice and guidance. There is a chance that you can avoid being sent to prison and separated from your family and loved ones.

The possession of 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.

To help you to understand what the outcome might be as a result of being convicted of the possession of indecent images offence, we’ve detailed the sentencing guidelines.  Please note that a competent and experienced solicitor may be able to get a prison sentence reduced or even avoid it entirely.

When it comes to sentencing guidelines, sentencing is given to those who are found guilty of:

  1. Having custody or control of indecent images of a person who is below the age of 18 years
  2. The suspect is aware and knows that they have the image in their possession

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 be exploring the sentencing for possession. You may find sentencing for other offences by heading over to our sentencing index.

Read more information about the offence of possession of indecent images

Possession of indecent images

The legal term of the offence of possession is not defined by the Protection of Children Act 1978, nor the Criminal Justice Act 1988 nor the Coroners and Justice Act 2009. The definition has been developed through previous case law and it is previous cases that are referred to when defining the parameters of the offence.

In 2018, the case of R v Okoro (No. 3) clarified and affirmed the previous case law with regards to the issue of possession. The trial used the following test to determine possession:

  • The suspect must have custody or control of the images i.e. they are able to access or retrieve the images
  • The suspect is aware that they possessed an image or collection of images on their device. It’s not necessary to be aware of the content of the images, just that they know they have them.

What is the average sentence for possession of indecent images offences?

The least serious offence of possession of indecent images is those that relate to the possession of category C images. In many cases these can lead to being handed a community order by the court. This may be in the form of performing unpaid work or being required to attend prescribed probation courses. However, in severe cases it may lead to being given a prison sentence of 6 months.

  • Possession of category A image is likely to result in being given a prison sentence, and sentences typically range between 6 months and 36 months.
  • Possession of category B images is likely to result in being a sentence between 6 months of community service to 18 months imprisonment.
  • Possession of category C images is likely to result in being given a community order but could extend to 6 months imprisonment.

How does a court decide on the seriousness of the possession of indecent images offence for sentencing purposes?

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:

  • Your previous conviction
  • The age and level of vulnerability of the depicted child
  • Whether the child has suffered any discernible pain or distress
  • The period over which the images were possessed
  • How many images were possessed?
  • Where the images were placed and whether there is the potential for a high volume of viewers
  • Whether the image collection included any moving images
  • Were there attempts made by the suspect to dispose or conceal the images?
  • Was trust abused?
  • Is the child known to the offender?
  • Is the suspect actively involved in a network or process that pays for the creation or sharing of indecent images?
  • Is there commercial motivation behind the exploitation?
  • Has there been deliberate or systematic searching for images of young children, familial abuse or category A images?
  • Is there a large number of children involved?
  • Was the child in an image drugged or intoxicated?

What are some of the mitigating factors that might reduce the possession of indecent images sentence?

Certain aspects of a case are known as the mitigating aspects which can influence the sentence that a judge gives. In possession of indecent images cases, they may include:

  • Whether the defendant is disabled or mentally ill
  • The age of the defendant, i.e. if they are particularly young their age may affect their level of responsibility
  • If there are previous, relevant or recent convictions
  • Suspect shows a considerable level of genuine remorse
  • A previous good character with exemplary conduct
  • If there is a learning disability or mental disorder linked to this offence
  • There have been demonstrative steps made to address this behaviour

What are some of the other consequences of possession of indecent images offence?

Ancillary Orders

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 possession of indecent image convictions include the following:

Notification and Disqualification

Those convicted or cautioned for sex offences including those that are contrary to Section 1 of the Protection of Children’s Act 1978 must notify the police of their details such as name, address and National Insurance Number. If there is any change to their name, address or they are leaving the country for a certain amount of time; they must notify the police within three days.

These details must also be given to the police annually. This information is stored on the Sex Offenders Register (previously known as the Dangerous Person Database VISOR).

Being convicted of a crime of this nature will result in an automatic barring from being allowed to work with children. The defendant has the right to make representations about their continued barring.

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 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.

How Can Stuart Miller Solicitors Help?

Being either investigated or prosecuted in relation to a possession of indecent images case is frightening. It’s vital that you are represented by a specialist legal team. At Stuart Miller Solicitors, we have a competent and experienced team of solicitors and legal support specialising in indecent image cases.  We also boast an extensive understanding of the Criminal Justice Act and have experience representing defendants in this complex area of law.

Of course, being accused of this type of offence can put your reputation in question in addition to being very humiliating. You’re likely to have a lot of questions that you need us to answer for you. Being discreet and sensitive to the situation is essential. We will help you throughout the process and guide you each step of the journey.

We believe the foundation of excellent representation is ensuring you understand the offence that you face and knowing what to expect throughout each step of your case.

Arrest & Interview

At the outset of an investigation of this nature, it is commonplace for the police to seize all of your electronic devices for analysis. We understand you will feel a sense of embarrassment with such levels of intrusion into your privacy. They may be seized for weeks, months and sometimes even longer.

In this day and age where people rely heavily upon technology, we understand you may feel at a loss without them. It is essential you contact our team of indecent image solicitors the moment you become aware an investigation is imminent or underway. Not only can our team prepare you for what can be a lengthy and gruelling process, once the investigation is underway, we can put pressure on the police to conclude their investigation as quickly as possible. Our indecent image solicitors provide representation throughout police interviews and at all stages of the Court process.

If you believe someone else has used your device, our expert team are able to check which websites were running simultaneously at the time of the download to see if the user can be identified.

Our indecent images solicitors will fully support you and ensure all possibilities are explored when defending your case. We will never accept the prosecution’s case at face value. We will seek out weaknesses in their case, we will challenge illegally obtained evidence and try to kick out inadmissible evidence. If any of the Charges cannot be proved by law, we will apply for those charges to be dismissed.

In the event that you accept the offence and are looking at the potential consequences or sentences imposed for possession of indecent images cases, our legal team will create a defence strategy to do their best to achieve your objectives. We will do everything possible to present your case and personal circumstances in the best light, so the Judge feels legally incapable of imposing unduly harsh sentences and where possible, we will always fight tooth and nail to avoid jail terms.

Would you like to discuss your case before instructing us?

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 Child Pornography 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 possession of indecent images legal help.


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