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The protection of children from predatory individuals is a matter of utmost importance to lawmakers and the courts alike. There exist numerous offences that tackle the troubling issue of indecent images of children (also known colloquially as ‘child pornography’) and if you find yourself subject to any such investigation, the consequences for your personal and professional life can be significant. In this article, we outline offences involving child pornography, explain what kind of images are involved, and answer some of the most common questions we get on sentencing and defences.
Offences involving child pornography fall under Section 1 of the Protection of Children Act 1978 and Section 160 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988. Broadly speaking, the law prohibits indecent photographs or pseudo-photographs of a minor. The acts of taking, creating, disseminating, sharing, and even possessing such images, are all unlawful.
It constitutes a criminal offence to capture (or permit the capturing of), circulate or display, possess, and/or publish indecent images of any individual under the age of 18. An indecent image in this context denotes a sexually explicit image of a minor, which may or may not depict them clothed and may or may not involve sexually explicit acts in the image.
There are three classifications of indecent images. Category A images are the most severe:
When it comes to charging, the police will build a case around a specific action or activity that you are alleged to have committed, namely:
The law considers a ‘child’ to be anyone under the age of 18, and it considers ‘pornographic’ images to be those that involve children with their genitals exposed or otherwise in suggestive or provocative poses. Videos as well as images count for these purposes. There is no requirement that an adult is present in these images, but sadly they often are as many images portray the abuse of children.
The law defines indecent images as child pornography, and prohibits them, if the images:
Most people do not have to worry about accidentally coming across these images and videos on the internet because only very specific search terms and websites will even bring anything like that up, but there is still a risk that the viewing happens inadvertently and this is a scenario that many first-time offenders find themselves in.
If you are suspected of an offence involving child pornography in the UK, the police and other law enforcement agencies – including some specialist cybercrime or child protection units – will investigate. Here is an overview of what typically happens:
In any criminal investigation, it is natural to feel like you want to explain your situation and co-operate as far as possible to show you have nothing to hide, but you should still seek legal advice as early on in the process as possible to ensure that you do not risk self-incrimination at any stage in the process.
Due to the extensive spectrum of potential categories into which this crime may fall, the range of potential sentences also varies accordingly.
If charged under legislation specifically pertaining to child pornography, the potential sentence can range from 3 months to 10 years.
The Sentencing Council has detailed guidelines that can help you understand what judges are considering in the process.
There are two statutory defences available to offences involving child pornography:
Other general defences, such as mistake, duress, involuntary intoxication, and insanity may still apply in addition to or instead of these statutory defences.
Cases like this can be extremely complex and with such extensive digital forensic evidence at play, you need the expertise of an experienced child pornography defence lawyer on your side. Securing this legal representation as early on in the process as possible is key to setting a strong foundation for your defence.
The penalties for a first-time offender involved in an offence related to child pornography are determined by a complex interplay of factors. These factors include the specific nature of the offence committed and the circumstances surrounding it. Sentencing guidelines take into account various considerations, such as the age of the child depicted in the indecent images, the quantity of such materials, the level of the defendant’s involvement, and any prior criminal history.
For those found in possession of indecent images of children for personal use, the courts may explore alternatives to immediate imprisonment, depending on the individual circumstances. These alternatives might include community orders, probation, or participation in educational programs aimed at rehabilitation. However, when the offence involves more serious actions, such as the production or distribution of child pornography, the penalties are generally harsher.
Being accused of an offence as serious and as personally and socially troubling as child pornography is very difficult and it is natural that you should have numerous questions and concerns about what might come next. To relieve some of your stress and start getting your defence prepared, get in touch with the team at Stuart Miller Solicitors today for a free, non-judgemental conversation about your options.
A legal expert will consult you within 24 hours of making an enquiry.
We will always treat you with trust, understanding and respect.
Your case will be handled by an expert who specialises in your type of offence.
We will take early action to end proceedings as soon as it is practically and legally possible to do so.
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