Accused of downloading indecent images? Here’s what that means.

7th October 2020 | Sex Offences Insights & Resources|
Stephen Halloran headshot

Stephen Halloran

Managing Partner

In Brief

Downloading indecent images is categorised as a making offence under UK law. Depending on the severity of the images (from grades A to C, A being the most extreme) sentencing guidelines for offences of making indecent images can differ. However, the consequences of any making offence are extremely serious, and whatever the category of the image a custodial sentence is likely in the event of a conviction. If you are accused of downloading indecent images you should speak to the highly specialised sexual offence solicitors at Lawtons who will handle your case with the utmost sensitivity.


indecent images

All offences involving indecent images are treated extremely seriously under UK law. The consequences of a conviction can be life-changing and do permanent damage to your reputation, so if you are accused of an offence it is crucial you speak to a specialist sexual offence solicitor as soon as possible. At Lawtons we can guide and advise you at every stage of this difficult process, offering non-judgmental representation and working towards the best possible outcome for you and your family. Contact our team without delay by calling 0333 577 0522.

Indecent image offences are regularly in the news headlines and there is a significant stigma around any accusation which can impact your personal and professional life in many ways. Common public perceptions around indecent image accusations tend not to differentiate between types of offences, but if you are arrested under an indecent image charge it is important to fully understand the different types of offence – and what being accused of downloading indecent images means. 

Types of indecent image offence

Broadly speaking, indecent image offences are split into two categories under current UK law. These are:

  • Possession, which can refer to either physical or digital possession of a prohibited image. It is a relatively simple offence to define but can become complicated when trying to understand whether attempts have been made to delete an image.
  • Making, which despite its name rarely refers to the actual taking of a picture. It refers to the creation of a digital image when it is downloaded or saved to a device, whether knowingly or not. Forensic investigation often attempts to determine whether an image has been made deliberately or accidentally. Making offences are split between distribution and production, each of which carries its own sentencing guidelines. 

Categories of indecent image

Under guidelines which were updated in 2014, indecent images are now graded into three categories under UK law:

  • Category A images are the most severe, and depict obscene penetrative sexual activity, gross assault, sadism, bestiality or a child in pain. 
  • Category B images show non-penetrative sexual assault and explicit sexual activity, such as oral sexual activity, and in most cases involve the presence of an adult. 
  • Category C images show sexually suggestive content or are taken in a nudist environment. It is the intentions of the accused individual which make these images obscene as they are not always sexual in nature. 

Sentencing guidelines for downloading indecent images

If you are accused of downloading an indecent image or images, then this is categorised as a making offence. As such, the sentencing guidelines are as follows:

  • A minimum six-year custodial sentence for making category A indecent images
  • Between one and four years’ imprisonment for making category B indecent images
  • Between one and three years’ imprisonment for making category C indecent images

What to do if you are accused of downloading indecent images

Seeking specialist legal assistance at the earliest possible opportunity can make a real difference to the outcome of your case. With indecent image offences there is significant difference between co-operating with a police investigation and jeopardising a defence case. We will meticulously examine the facts of your individual case and circumstances in order to build the most robust defence possible. 

Using our expertise can help you to reduce the damage to your private life sustained by these kinds of accusations, and at Lawtons we will draw on our years of experience in this difficult area of the law to guide you towards the most positive outcome we can achieve. 

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