Anyone accused of offences relating to indecent images can face a particularly difficult and distressing time while under investigation. Reputations can be at stake, marriages and family relationships put under immense strain, and life may never be the same again – even if the individual is acquitted. We are experienced indecent images solicitors with years of advising and representing clients facing indecent images charges, usually involving children. We advise and represent our clients with the sensitivity and discretion they need.
What is the law on indecent images?
It is a criminal offence to have any indecent photographs (or pseudo-photographs) of a child in your possession. It is also an offence to produce and share them. A child is an individual under the age of 18 years for these purposes. The relevant law is set out in the Criminal Justice Act 1988 and the Protection of the Children Act 1978. An individual has possession of indecent images if they possess it according to its natural meaning. However, in the technological age in which we live, indecent images are now freely shared digitally. For instance, they can be shared through peer-to-peer file sharing, and by accessing other people’s digital files. Importantly, possession includes control. This means that if your computer or mobile device is found to have indecent images on it, and there is proof you had control of it – you will possess it for the purposes of indecent images law. Downloading an image is also treated as ‘possession’.
What is an indecent image?
The law does not define what is ‘indecent’. However, indecent images are classified according to their seriousness, with sentencing based on the relevant category.
There are three broad categories:
Category A is the most severe category and includes images involving penetrative sexual activity, and sexual activity with an animal, or sadism
Category B includes the mid-range in terms of seriousness – typically, images involving non-penetrative sexual activity
Category C includes the least serious offences, ie. those not within Category A or B Within these categories, further factors relating to possession, distribution and production (ie. taking the picture) are relevant for the purposes of sentencing. Note that ‘images’ includes video, and other moving images.
What types of activity involving indecent images are unlawful?
Most indecent images offences relate to material involving children.
Typical examples of the types of indecent images activity that is penalised includes:
• downloading indecent images of children
• sharing or posting indecent images of children
• sending indecent or inappropriate images to a child
• making and distributing pseudo-photographs of children
• taking or permitting indecent pictures of children to be taken
What about sexting?
So-called ‘sexting’ takes place when someone sends a text or intimate picture with a sexual element to another person. This comes within the laws relating to indecent images. Sexting has become common among older children and young people – but even if you are under 18 you can be charged with a criminal offence. So if someone has posted an intimate picture of you without your permission, report it because the police can take action against the perpetrator. If you have been ‘sexting’, you could face prosecution under the laws relating to the production, possession and distribution of indecent images.
What is the likely sentence for indecent images offences?
This depends on the seriousness of the offence, and how the indecent images were possessed, distributed and/or produced. For instance, the starting point for a Category A conviction could be 6 years (up to 10 years), whilst a minor Category C offence may only attract a community order. Importantly aggravating factors will be taken into account. For instance, the greater the severity of the offence and the younger the child, the greater the sentence will be. Other factors would include whether drugs or alcohol were used to sedate the child; whether the images were filmed; the number of images possessed; and so on. Could I get away with a caution for possession of indecent images? It is very common for a police caution to be issued for ‘mere’ possession of indecent images of children, as police forces are tending to focus on the more dangerous paedophiles. However, it depends on factors such as the nature of the pictures, the volume in your possession, and so on. Can I defend the charges? There are a number of defences available to a charge involving indecent images. You may, for instance, be in possession of an indecent image because it was sent to you unsolicited. Lack of awareness (ie, you didn’t know you possessed the image/s) is also a common defence. If you have accidentally accessed, made or distributed an indecent image, you may be able to avoid conviction. However, if your defence involves technology, it can be very difficult to prove – and an expert witness may be needed to prove your defence. There are cases where an individual has a legitimate reason for possessing indecent images, including the police, and individuals conducting genuine research.
What about revenge pornography?
So-called revenge pornography, typically involving adults and not children, is a criminal offence under section 33 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015. It is a criminal offence to disclose or post private intimate sexual photographs or films without the consent of a person who appears in them, and with the intention to cause them distress. So if you are under investigation following a complaint by an ex-partner for revenge pornography, you could face criminal charges. On conviction, you could be sentenced to up to 2 years in prison. What happens next? If you are facing indecent images charges, the police investigation may take a long time while they gather the evidence, categorise the images, and consider what charges to bring (if any). In the meantime, take expert legal advice early on so that if charges are brought, you are prepared as you can be, with our help, to defend the charges. How can we help? If you have been charged with possessing, uploading or downloading, distributing or producing indecent images, or any other offences relating to indecent images, contact the experienced indecent images solicitors at Qamar Solicitors urgently for specialist advice. The sexual offences lawyers at Qamar Solicitors are available to advise you urgently as to what you should do next. Contact us now on 01924 488 199