What to do if you are accused of downloading indecent images

3rd November 2020 | Sex Offences|
Nick Titchener headshot

Nick Titchener

Director & Solicitor Advocate

In Brief

Have you been accused of downloading indecent images? This is a serious sexual offence in a highly sensitive area of law, and while an accusation alone can cause high levels of distress and embarrassment, the consequences of a conviction are truly life-altering. If you are found guilty of downloading indecent images you could find that your reputation and relationships are irreparably damaged, so with this at stake, it is absolutely crucial that you seek expert legal assistance at the earliest opportunity if you are accused or under investigation.

At Lawtons, our team of highly experienced sexual offence solicitors will examine your individual case in meticulous detail. We have dealt with many cases of this type and will approach yours without judgement, taking a look at the facts to prepare the most robust defence possible. We will work closely alongside you to achieve the best possible outcome in your case. We recognise that no two cases are the same, and we will guide you through the stressful and emotional proceedings of an investigation or court case, every step of the way. 

Contact us today to find out how the team at Lawtons can help with your case.

Indecent images

What is an indecent image?

Under UK law, indecent images are defined by the Crown Prosecution Service as indecent pictures or videos of children. However, the definitions tend to be more wide-ranging than this as there are separate offences of being in possession of extreme or prohibited images which include indecent images of animals. The laws against downloading or possessing indecent images include not only photographs but moving images, animation, video photography and pseudo-photography (generatable images which can be transferred through computer software). 

What offence does downloading indecent images constitute?

Under the Protection of Children Act 1978 and the Criminal Justice Act 1988, offences around indecent images are broadly broken down into ‘possession’, ‘making’ and distribution.

What is possession of an indecent image?

Possession refers to either the digital or physical possession of a prohibited image. This could relate to a computer file, printed photography or pseudo-photography.

What is making an indecent image?

Making rarely refers to the traditional process of actually taking a photograph or creating an image – it usually refers to downloading or saving the image to a digital device, either on purpose or by accident. Under these definitions, it can be legally complex to determine whether an individual was aware that they were making an image, and this is often the subject of forensic examination. A level of knowledge is required in terms of the offences concerning indecent images, and often that is determined by what other circumstantial evidence is recovered from which inferences are drawn.

This means that if you are accused of downloading an indecent image, you could be being accused of both making and possessing it. Making offences are further split into the categories of distribution and production, both of which carry their own sentencing guidelines.

What are the different types of indecent images? 

Indecent images are graded into three categories under UK law. 

Category A images are considered to be the most severe. These depict penetrative sexual activity with children and other extreme content such as bestiality and sadism.

Category B images depict non-penetrative sexual assault of children, such as oral sex and mutual masturbation, or other explicit sexual activity involving children by themselves. 

Category C images depict sexually suggestive content, or nudity. In the latter case the images are often not overtly sexual in nature but may include provocative posing or situations so it is the intentions of the person downloading it which come under scrutiny. 

What are the sentencing guidelines for downloading indecent images? 

The sentencing guidelines for indecent images offences depend upon the type of offence, as well as the category of image, with all such cases and categories of images having “starting” points and ranges that courts will have regard to:

Category A images carry a maximum prison sentence of three years for possession, and a minimum of two years for distribution, or six years for production.

Category B images carry a minimum prison sentence of 26 weeks for possession and between 1 and 4 years for distribution and production.

Category C images can result in high-level community orders for possession and a prison sentence of 1 to 3 years for production or distribution offences.

What should you do if you are accused of downloading indecent images?

Any offence involving indecent images is serious and can have devastating consequences for you and your loved ones in the event of a conviction. While the severity of the offence varies depending on whether you have been accused of possessing or making the image, an accusation of any kind can be upsetting and stressful.

It is important not to panic at this crucial stage of your case. Do not delay – contact the expert team of indecent images solicitors at Lawtons immediately for invaluable advice that could determine the outcome of your case. You should not take part in a police interview without speaking to a lawyer.

With an excellent track record in achieving positive outcomes for our clients in these types of cases, we will approach your case with meticulous planning and a careful, non-judgmental approach. Your reputation is on the line, so do not hesitate to pick up the phone and call us on 0333 577 0522 for guidance as you navigate through this difficult period of your life.

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